Faculty lend informed ear to colleagues about commercializing ideas, research
Betty Lise Anderson likens herself to a bridge, connecting faculty in the College of Engineering to the Technology Commercialization and Knowledge Transfer Office. Dubbed one of 16 Entrepreneurial Scholars for the TCO, Anderson is an informed starting point for colleagues considering patenting ideas, creating products or starting a company.
With leadership from Tom Rosol, a Veterinary Biosciences professor from the College of Veterinary Medicine, the TCO created the E. Scholar program to increase its exposure among faculty with the hopes of significantly closing Ohio State’s research commercialization gap with its peer institutions and ensuring its proprietary knowledge is being used to the fullest. Rosol continues to serve as the coordinator and liason to all of Ohio State’s E. Scholars.
Anderson, an Electrical and Computer Engineering professor and associate chair of the department who has 26 patents over a 23-year career, was already part of a committee within Engineering that was formed to help move innovation forward. Becoming an E. Scholar seemed a natural fit.
“My goal is to be there and help if somebody needs it,” Anderson said. “We tell our new faculty about it at orientation, and I tell people that, at Ohio State, patents and commercialization are starting to matter for tenure and promotion. That change is real and it’s happening, and I can see how people are starting to value those activities alongside publishing research.”
The E. Scholars were chosen to be TCO representatives and were nominated by their deans or department chairs. They are currently in six colleges: Arts and Sciences, Engineering; Medicine; Pharmacy; Nursing; and Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“We think it’s unique for us. Our Entrepreneurial Scholars essentially become an embedded resource within the college to educate other faculty and identify valuable new ideas,” said Paul Reeder, director of the TCO’s Ideation Lab, an on-campus resource that serves inventors and entrepreneurs.
Having E. Scholars in each of these colleges also means understanding the unique approaches each college must take in the commercialization process. While Medicine and Engineering tend to dovetail into the discovery-invention-production-commercial startup process, faculty in Arts and Sciences tend to focus on publishing their findings.
“Arts and Sciences, it’s a real challenge because we’re mostly basic researchers and not familiar with the whole commercialization process,” said Erich Grotewold, a professor of Molecular Genetics and director of the Center for Applied Plant Science. He is one of three E. Scholars in the Arts and Sciences.
“We’re still in the learning curve, and since most of us are not too involved with commercialization, we need to understand what that means,. We need to understand what TCO offers. They’ve done a good job and given the E. Scholars an opportunity to see that. Now we have to find ways in which we can use that knowledge to bring on board a much larger fraction of the OSU faculty. It’s an ongoing process and it’s not finished.”
The program began in 2012, and the E. Scholars meet at the TCO every four to six weeks to compare notes and add to their training. Reeder said it was apparent the program was a success when one E. Scholar at a recent meeting asked a question and another E. Scholar answered it before Reeder could chime in.
That’s the way the program should operate, Reeder said, with TCO as the facilitator and the colleges’ representatives talking to each other to get the word out about cultivating innovation.
E. Scholars also act as beta testers for the TCO. Currently they are delivering feedback on a new online system being developed to disclose inventions.
“They’re an integral part of our processes and the changes that are happening,” Reeder said. “It’s not just a one-way street where we’re telling them what to do. We ask them how our services are going to better fit within their colleges. They are our focus groups.”
Anderson, who is happy to discover and leave the entrepreneurial side to others, said she will do anything she can to facilitate her colleagues’ introduction to or immersion in the TCO’s efforts, which also include licensing and venture capital connections.
“The culture, at least when I came in to Ohio State, was you’re an academician, you’re supposed to share your inventing knowledge with the world,” Anderson said.
“Some people thought it was distasteful to get involved in anything commercial. But it’s changing.”
E. Scholars by college
College of Medicine
Albert Lai – Department of Biomedical Informatics
Robert Baiocchi – Department of Internal Medicine (Division of Hematology)
Michael Tweedle – Department of Radiology
Cameron Rink – Department of Vascular Surgery
College of Arts and Sciences
Dehua Pei – Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Erich Grotewold – Department of Molecular Genetics
Harris Kagan – Physics Department
College of Engineering
Bill Marras – Integrated Systems Engineering
Betty Lise Anderson – Electrical and Computer Engineering
Joseph Heremans – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Suresh Babu – Materials Science Engineering
Stephen Lee – Biomedical Engineering
Jessica Winter – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
College of Pharmacy
Robert Brueggemeier – Division of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy
College of Nursing
Mary Beth Happ
College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Monica Giusti – Food Science and Technology