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Purdue Launches Commercialization Center to Accelerate Discovery to Delivery

The new research commercialization center that will move Purdue discoveries to the marketplace more quickly, increase revenue for the university, and spur economic development in Indiana and the nation.

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University President France A Córdova on Tuesday (Jan. 24) announced the launch of a new research commercialization center that will move Purdue discoveries to the marketplace more quickly, increase revenue for the university, and spur economic development in Indiana and the nation.

The Innovation and Commercialization Center is a key element of Purdue's Decadal Funding Plan, a long-term initiative to support core university activities and reduce the institution's dependence on state appropriations and tuition increases.

"Purdue performs almost $600 million a year in government and industry sponsored research, and the university owns almost all of the intellectual property generated by that research," Cordova said. "The Innovation and Commercialization Center will step up the value of carefully selected Purdue-owned intellectual property, allowing us to spin it out of the university in a way that directly benefits both Purdue and the economy of Indiana."

The center will serve as a "one-stop shop" for faculty and staff inventors and offer seed grants and other funding for testing concepts, developing prototypes or participating in joint technology development projects with external partners. First-year activities will be supported by $1 million in gift funds donated by alumni entrepreneurs. No general funds from state appropriations or tuition will be used.

Keith Krach, chair of the Purdue Board of Trustees and a serial entrepreneur, said the center would be attractive to investors and venture capitalists.

"These are busy, intense individuals who want one point of contact who moves at the speed of business and understands research and technology," Krach said. "The defining characteristics of this center will be pace and partnerships."

Richard Buckius, Purdue vice president for research, said the center also would combine commercialization support with mentoring from established entrepreneurs and experienced faculty.

"The longer term plan is to develop a robust early stage venture funding community and tech-based start-up economy in Indiana," Buckius said. "Our goal is to create a set of opportunities that will draw experienced investors and tech-based entrepreneurs to West Lafayette."

Gerry McCartney, chief information officer, vice president for Information Technology at Purdue and the Olga Oesterle England Professor of Information Technology, will serve as the center's inaugural director. McCartney has significant experience in licensing software applications to industry, starting first with the WRDS product, a business intelligence tool, while he was at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, continuing through the SIFT project at Purdue's Krannert School of Management, and most recently with Signals, an application that tracks student course activity and warns them if they're getting into academic difficulty. Signals, branded as Course Signals, is commercially available through a Purdue partnership with SunGard Higher Education.

McCartney will serve a split appointment between the center and ITaP for two years, and there will be a national search for the next director who will be part of the Purdue Research Foundation. McCartney's first steps will be to create an advisory committee of faculty and business entrepreneurs and organize sessions for faculty, staff and alumni to learn more about center support programs. The Innovation and Commercialization Center will be based in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Discovery Park.

The Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization, under the direction of Elizabeth Hart-Wells, will be part of the new effort. While OTC will continue to provide Purdue faculty, staff and student entrepreneurs advice and support in establishing intellectual property rights and turning those discoveries into products and services, the Innovation and Commercialization Center will expand its resources to support translation of Purdue discoveries.

Dan Hasler, Secretary of Commerce and chief executive officer of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, said the center would be important to Indiana's economy.

"Purdue's new commercialization center reinforces the long-standing, world-renowned reputation for innovation of Indiana's colleges and universities," Hasler said. "We are pleased to see this center speed the process of promoting Hoosier ingenuity in the global marketplace."

Purdue West Coast Partnership director John Boyle, who works on getting Purdue research and Indiana opportunities in front of businesses in Silicon Valley, said the center would facilitate the engagement of Purdue alumni and venture capitalists who want to get involved.

"In addition, potential corporate partners, including the high-tech firms based on the West Coast, will find it easier to identify and pursue Purdue technology that has commercial applicability and is of interest to them," Boyle said.

Purdue has long been a national leader in commercialization activities. The Association of University Technology Managers ranked Purdue No. 6 nationally for its commercialization successes in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Purdue, through its research foundation, had 11 startups in the period. In the past 15 years, Purdue faculty and the Purdue Research Foundation are credited with spinning out more than 75 startup companies and licensing hundreds of technologies to industry.

Purdue's Decadal Funding Plan will increase sources of revenue beyond tuition and state appropriations, the traditional sources for public university funding, by doubling financial capacity through continued cost-cutting, expanding online degree and professional education offerings, encouraging more robust use of campus facilities through summer teaching, and ramping up research commercialization and funding.

The plan began in March 2011 under the direction of Córdova; Tim Sands, executive vice president of academic affairs and provost; and Al Diaz, executive vice president of business and finance, treasurer. Thirteen groups of faculty and staff prioritized more than 50 strong revenue-generating ideas into three areas: Efficient and Effective Purdue, Global Purdue and Innovative Purdue.