UGA is moving discoveries to the marketplace
Products developed from UGA research add a big boost to the Georgia economy.
Since the University of Georgia first began licensing technologies over 30 years ago, more than 575 products based on UGA research — ranging from peanuts and hydrangeas to pharmaceuticals and biotech research tools — have reached the marketplace, and over 135 companies have been started based on UGA research.
Thanks to an innovative research faculty, industry partners, and a highly efficient commercialization pipeline, UGA consistently ranks among the top U.S. universities for commercializing its research. In 2015 alone, 55 new products based on UGA research were introduced into the marketplace, up from 28 new products in 2014, and it launched five startups in both 2014 and 2015. Just last month, the FDA approved a new drug produced using patented technology discovered at UGA.
In a move to streamline the path from laboratory and field to marketplace, the University of Georgia recently merged its technology licensing and startup programs to create a combined unit called Innovation Gateway, which works with faculty to identify technologies with commercial potential, protect intellectual property and delineate possible paths to the marketplace.
“The optimal approach for moving a discovery from the lab to the market can vary depending on the type of technology and stage of development,” said Derek Eberhart, Innovation Gateway director. “In some cases, the best route for a promising technology is licensing to an established company, while in other instances, the best way to nurture the nascent technology is launching a startup company.”
The Innovation Gateway team helps researchers and companies navigate either of these pathways and ensure that groundbreaking discoveries emerging from UGA research will reach their full commercial potential.
Many newly disclosed inventions require additional research and/or proof of principle testing before they are attractive to an industry partner to license for further commercial development. Innovation Gateway works with inventors to ensure technologies are license-ready for partnering with an industry collaborator.
Once a technology is licensed, new industry partners leverage their resources and development expertise to bring products to the market, said Eberhart. “Depending on the technology, product development can take just a few months, or for those products requiring extensive regulatory approval, up to 10 or more years.”
Once a technology has been developed into a commercial product, the inventor and university typically see a return on the resources invested in the technology many years prior through royalty revenue from product sales.
But this isn’t the only way to move products and services into the marketplace; sometimes launching a new company is the best commercialization route. Innovation Gateway’s startup incubator, located on Riverbend Road, enables startup companies to accelerate their early growth through access to space, state-of-the-art equipment, and support services.
This pathway begins with the pre-company stage, in which early-stage business enterprises evaluate the potential for university technologies to address a market need, explained Eberhart. Innovation Gateway assists companies with proof-of-concept analysis and business assessments to determine the feasibility of launching a new venture. The Georgia Research Alliance may also provide seed grant funding to companies at this stage through the GRA Ventures program and throughout the commercialization process.
Once companies become legally incorporated and establish operations, they seek to leverage funding from a variety of sources including GRA, federal small business grants or private investment to develop their idea into a robust business venture.
At the final stage of incubation, Eberhart said, companies have developed into financially sustainable businesses. “This is what we aim for – companies with significant economic and societal impact.”
Whichever pathway is taken, Eberhart said, “Our goal is to enhance the creation of new innovative companies and products based on UGA research, and ultimately, improve the quality of life in our state and around the world.”
— Terry Hastings, Office of the Vice President for Research