U names executive director for newly established office

Karlee Weinmann

The University made recent strides in easing the transition of University innovations from on-campus laboratories to the private sector.

Jay Schrankler began his appointment Monday as executive director of the Office of Technology Commercialization, established within the last few months.

Schrankler, a University alumnus, started a licensing organization at Honeywell and oversaw it for the past three years.

He will run the office, which unites the new Licensing Center, formerly Patents and Technology Marketing, and the Venture Center, formerly the Office of Business Development.

University researchers will utilize the reorganized office to present innovations for assessment.

Office employees determine the practicality and marketability of inventions. And if the product could make money and satisfy a wide audience, the office delivers it to potential industrial partners.

The new “value-based” approach will be a more efficient means of bringing University innovations into the public spotlight, said Doug Johnson, Venture Center director.

“It should mean more earnings for faculty who invent commercially interesting innovations,” he said.

“It should mean more revenue for the University, and it should mean we’re getting out innovations to help society that we weren’t getting out before.”

Mechanical engineering professor Arthur Erdman conducted research and worked to commercialize innovations like a new stethoscope.

“I think the way they were doing things in the past Ö that (academic) model has passed its usefulness,” he said.

Schrankler was selected as the University’s appointee several weeks ago, after a two-part search. The first was open solely to academic professionals, but no fitting candidates emerged.

The search criteria were widened to include candidates from the business world, and Schrankler said he thinks his corporate expertise will help the institution continue in its new, more business-oriented direction.

Previously, the University operated under an academic model, which provided little advantage when dealing with corporations and potential financiers.

“This is a model the University needed to adopt to be successful,” Schrankler said.

Johnson and Schrankler agreed it would be years before the new office fully realizes its potential in terms of commercialized innovations and University benefits.

“Our initiative at this phase is a more general focus to better prioritize the best opportunities,” Schrankler said.

When University inventions are adopted by private investors, the school receives royalties that can be funneled back into research.

“Many things have changed recently in a very positive direction where the University is taking a very futuristic look at how to deal with intellectual property,” Erdman said.

Despite increased allocation of resources to the office and its new objectives, the University is unable to fulfill many requests made to commercialize creations.

Erdman was involved in a project for bone lengthening that was not selected as a venture of choice, but was not discouraged in his subsequent work.

“Once you’ve been through the research process with grad students and developed something new, novel and maybe even helpful to mankind, which can benefit the University as an investment,” he said, “it’s pretty amazing.”