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IU Research and Technology Corp. helps faculty change the world through research, inventions

Aug. 17, 2016

Business is booming for the IU Research and Technology Corp., formed in 1997 to help the university patent and license inventions created by its researchers.

tony armstrong

IU Research and Technology Corp. President and CEO Tony Armstrong | PHOTO COURTESY OF IU RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY CORP.

IU Research and Technology Corp. signed 43 licensing agreements in the 2015-16 fiscal year, a 72 percent increase over the prior year. Those licenses covered 67 technologies developed throughout the IU Bloomington and IUPUI campuses, including the IU School of Medicine, UITS, the School of Informatics and Computing and the Department of Chemistry on the Bloomington campus.

How did IU get involved? Passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980 allowed universities to retain title to inventions and to then patent and license those inventions, which fundamentally changed the nation’s system of technology commercialization, IU Research and Technology Corp. President and CEO Tony Armstrong said.

“We were formed to provide IU more flexibility to respond to business opportunities as well as engage in an aggressive technology commercialization program,” he said.

And it’s worked. Since 1997, IU research has resulted in more than 2,700 inventions and nearly 4,000 global patent applications. Those discoveries have generated over $135 million in licensing and royalty income, more than $112 million of which went directly to IU departments, labs and inventors.

There are plenty of IU success stories too, ranging from the creation of Crest toothpaste to the search-based, mobile-friendly technology created for the university’s new One.IU platform.

The IU Research and Technology Corp. also plays a large role in helping the university live out priorities set through its Bicentennial Strategic Plan.

“Our work here at the IURTC is a key element to meeting the plan’s seventh priority: building a prosperous and innovative Indiana,” Armstrong said. “As a public university, IU benefits all people in the state and world beyond. The IURTC focuses on translating applied research and discoveries into economic opportunity, impacting the economic development and prosperity of the state.”

So what does all of this mean for IU researchers? If you’ve invented something or discovered something vital through your research, the IURTC wants to hear from you first.

“IU researchers interested in commercialization must disclose potential inventions to the IURTC prior to publicly disclosing the research,” Armstrong said. “After public disclosure, the ability to obtain meaningful patent protection sufficient to enable commercialization could be significantly impaired. And without broad patent protection, commercial partners often lack incentive, meaning potentially valuable inventions might never make it to the commercial market.”

What’s the first step if you’ve invented or discovered something? Visit the IU Research and Technology Corp.’s website, which houses an invention disclosure form, a revenue sharing form and a form to declare additional inventors.

If you’re not sure your idea is ready for patenting, the organization’s technology managers can help guide you through the technology commercialization process.

The IURTC also oversees the SpinUp program, which helps IU researchers bring promising technologies to the market by starting their own companies.

In addition, the organization oversees the $10 million Innovate Indiana Fund, which invests in companies originating from IU to help them achieve commercial success. The fund is open to all university faculty and researchers.

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The IURTC work aligns with several priorities in the university's Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a vibrant community of scholars, catalyzing research and building a more prosperous and innovative Indiana.

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