By Andrew J. Tobias Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Ohio IP Promise," is meant to encourage the entrepreneurial use of ideas produced by university students and professors.
Ohio is launching a new program to get its universities on the same page when it comes to finding business uses for school-produced research and inventions.
The new program, called "Ohio IP Promise," is meant to provide common guidelines for the commercialization of intellectual property produced by university students and professors.
The initiative is meant to encourage entrepreneurial uses of those ideas, which state officials said can help the state's economy by promoting start-up businesses and attracting outside investment, while also making money that eventually can go back to the university to fund further research.
The state's 14 public universities, including Cleveland State University and the University of Akron, have signed on to Ohio IP Promise, as have two private universities -- Case Western Reserve University and the University of Dayton.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and university officials announced the new initiative on Friday in Columbus at Ohio State University's corporate engagement office, which works to get companies to sponsor university research. He said he'd eventually like to get Ohio's medical institutions on board with the program, too.
"This is a tangible step to show the rest of the nation and the world that Ohio has its act together, and has a great university system that is collaborating with entrepreneurs and investors to commercialize the things that are happening on our campuses," said Husted, who's overseeing a broader state initiative meant to promote innovation. "It will result in a growing and vibrant economy that will improve people's lives along the way."
The template for Ohio IP Promise includes having participating universities publish guidelines on their websites describing their policies for commercializing research. Without established, effective rules, the process for taking research and launching it into the marketplace -- including figuring out who has the rights to decide how to use the idea and to make money off it -- can be so complicated that it prevents ideas from taking off.
Two universities with established policies for commercializing research, the University of Cincinnati and OSU, played a central role in developing the new system. But some state universities didn't publicly promote their commercialization policies until the work behind Ohio I.P. Promise began earlier this year, state officials said.
Husted also said the initiative could have the effect of helping Ohio retain young people. As part of the state's struggle to update its economy amid the long-term decline of U.S. manufacturing, Ohio leaders for years have grappled with "brain drain," a term used to describe the dynamic of students and other young residents leaving the state for job opportunities elsewhere.
He acknowledged it will be hard to tell whether the initiative is working.
"There's no doubt about that. But doing things the way we'd always done them wasn't working," he said. "...And now many of universities who are not players in this space are going to become players in the space, and those who were players in this space are going to become better."
OSU optometry professor Melissa Bailey is among those who advised state officials on the Ohio IP Promise initiative. She's taken research she's performed while working for OSU to launch two start-up businesses -- one built around a phone app-based eye exam, and another focused on a new bifocal contact lens design -- that are attracting venture capital interest.
She said without a streamlined commercialization process and university support, it can be difficult for researchers to try to scale up their ideas.
"I never took any business classes. Other than Econ 101 as an undergrad, that was it," she said. "So I wouldn't have known what to do with the ideas I had."
With a possible commercial avenue for her work at OSU, Bailey said she feels gratified to not just be doing purely academic research.
"If we're successful at some of these ventures, it'll change a lot of people's lives. And to me, that was worth the time and effort," she said. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.