SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame has seen a sharp increase in the amount of intellectual property being developed as the result of a push to spend more money on faculty research.
The South Bend Tribune reports researchers disclosed 55 inventions to the university in 2012. That’s up from 17 in 2002. The number of patent applications and licensing agreements also has grown.
Office of Technology Transfer Director Richard Cox says an increase in funding and a greater awareness of the need to commercialize parts of the university are driving the numbers.
Notre Dame spent almost $158 million on research during the 2012-2013 academic year. That’s nearly twice what the university spent on research five years ago.
The Innovation Park business incubator that opened in 2009 is also a factor.
Tenant Emu Solutions developed computer hardware and software on campus, applied for patents through Notre Dame and then licensed the technology back from the university.
“We’ve learned it’s important to have the university as a partner in this,” said Jay Brockman, a computer science and engineering professor at Notre Dame and one of Emu’s founders.
“The three patents we ended up licensing, the university essentially fronted the money for that,” he said.
Cox said it typically costs $10,000 to $20,000 to apply for a patent. Those costs rise to between $20,000 and $40,000 by the time a patent is issued.
The patent process can take from two to five years.
The university tries to recoup its patent costs through licensing agreements. Any net revenue beyond those costs is shared between the university and the inventors.
Cox said the university doesn’t help with the process simply to make money.
“Essentially, we’ve got really bright people, and many of them are working on societal problems. When they find potential solutions, we feel obligated to share those rather than just write them up in a journal or stick them on a shelf,” he said.
“Commercialization is often the best path to get a useful new technology into practical application,” he said. “That really is what drives this kind of activity.”
Notre Dame still trails schools like Purdue or the University of Michigan for its research efforts, Cox noted. Purdue spent $622 million on research during the 2011-2012 academic year, and it reported 356 invention disclosures, 54 patents and 77 licensing deals.
But Cox said Notre Dame is still doing well.
“On a comparative basis, I think we do pretty well in terms of how well the faculty convert research dollars into invention disclosures,” he said.
Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com