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Colorado State U More than Doubles Invention Disclosures, Licensing Deals Since '06

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Invention disclosures by faculty members of Colorado State University have more than doubled since 2006, evidence that a multidisciplinary "superclusters" strategy adopted in 2007 to boost technology commercialization at the school is starting to pay dividends, the school said this week.

According to the CSU Research Foundation, invention disclosures jumped from 42 in FY 2006 to 91 in FY 2008, the last year for which complete tech-transfer metrics are available. However, CSURF said that it had exceeded 100 invention disclosures in FY 2009, which ended on June 30.

CSURF also reported that its patent applications filed and licensing agreements executed had roughly tripled between 2006 and 2008.

However, over that same period, the number of patents issued to the university and startup companies launched based on CSU discoveries either remained even or declined.

CSU said that invention disclosures increased as a result of its superclusters strategy, in which CSU faculty working in specific areas of research strength are encouraged to engage in cross-disciplinary collaborations and are paired with industry experts who help assess marketability and develop a commercialization plan.

The superclusters operate like independent businesses with their own management team, but under the umbrella of CSURF. The first three superclusters are called Cenergy (clean energy), NeoTREX (cancer), and MicroRx (infectious disease).

CSU also said that about 50 percent of invention disclosures logged over the past 15 years in the areas of clean energy and infectious disease, and 90 percent in the area of cancer research, have been filed within the last two years, providing more evidence that the supercluster strategy is at the very least encouraging more faculty members to approach CSU's tech-transfer office with their innovations.

The increase in licensing activity may also be a result of the new strategy. "Faculty at Colorado State were already leaders in their fields as far as working together and building teams," CSU President Tony Frank said in a statement. "The superclusters added outside business expertise — people from industry who take the guesswork out of entrepreneurship and help faculty get their innovations to the marketplace."

The school unveiled its supercluster plan to government officials, members of the investment community, and media during a cross-country roadshow in early 2008 (see BTW, 4/2/2008).

At the time, university officials told BTW that, using its 2006 tech-transfer metrics as a starting point, by 2008 it had hoped to increase yearly invention disclosures by 75 percent; increase patent applications, patent issuances, and licenses executed by 50 percent; and double the number of university startup companies by 2008.

So far, CSURF has exceeded its goals in the areas of invention disclosures and licenses executed, but has not hit its target numbers for issued patents or startup companies.

In addition, CSU has seen its licensing income — which is not necessarily a reliable indicator of tech-transfer activity or success — drop from approximately $1.07 million in 2006 to just over $800,000 in 2008 after spiking in 2007 to about $2.2 million.

The reasons for CSU's flat licensing deal and patent issuance metrics, and drop in licensing revenue are not clear. Calls to CSURF were not returned in time for this story.

School officials also said at its event in early 2008 that from 2008 to 2011, it had hoped to increase yearly inventions, patent applications, patents, and licenses by another 75 percent; and university startups by another 50 percent.

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