Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA
Texas Tech University (TTU) organized an engaging event in Lubbock to discuss the future of the research enterprise and the need for an innovation ecosystem to advance economy. As the economies of most developed nations are facing stagnation and even developing nations witnessing jobless growth, efforts undertaken by research universities to create innovation ecosystem that transfer research into deliverables and jobs are being noticed.
Mr. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India recently made a clarion call to researchers to focus on research commercialization. “Support for innovation has become one of the core functions of modern research universities,” stated Joseph Heppert, Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University.
The old way of research commercialization, which was a “push” approach doesn’t seem to work these days. “Proactive approach which enables the start-up culture is the way forward,” stated David Snow, Senior Managing Director of the Office of Research Commercialization at TTU. Certainly, this scribe can vouch to this approach being a practitioner of translational research for 20-years at Texas Tech University. One of his early inventions, FiberTect military wipe has been commercialized by Chantilly-based First Line Technology. It is easier if a technology finds a home in the society, which has been the case with the FiberTect textile wipes and low-grade cotton mats for oil spill remediation.
David Snow outlined some of the benefits the inventors and academics receive by commercializing their inventions. He emphasized the importance of engagement with industry and customers to transfer technologies into market place. In a question from this scribe on the need for marketing support, Snow admitted access to resources is a challenge, which can be overcome by attracting support from local economic development agencies, which support small grants to develop prototypes.
The importance of taking an idea and creating start-ups was emphasized by Kimberly Gramm, Senior Managing Director of the Innovation Hub at Texas Tech University. Gramm began her speech with a slogan, “We Launch Start-ups.” Outlining government supportive programs to promote research commercialization, Gramm pointed to support initiatives by science funding agencies which are now realizing the broader impact of technology transfer and commercialization. It is clear from a productive event today that research engine is moving faster from being a generator of ideas to being a job creator with broader societal and economic impacts.