Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Office of Technology Transfer scores a funding hat trick

Yatin Karpe (second from right) of Lehigh's Office of Technology Transfer accepts a check from the state's Department of Community and Economic Development. Shown from left to right are DCED's Tom Armstrong and Sheri Collins, DCED Secretary Dennis Yablonsky and Steve Melnick, director of Southside Bethlehem's Keystone Innovation Zone.

For the third consecutive year, Lehigh’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) has received a state grant to promote programs aimed at moving technological advances from the university to the real world.

The Keystone Innovation Grant (KIG) will support OTT’s mission of protecting, marketing and licensing university inventions, or intellectual property. It will also help OTT promote regional, state and national economic development as well as relationships with industry and government.

The $200,000 grant was announced recently by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). It is one of 23 awards totaling $3.5 million that were made to universities and colleges through DCED’s KIG program.

“Our office is not about making money, but about moving research from the lab into the marketplace,” said OTT director Tom Meischeid. “This technology transfer leads to commercial licenses for new inventions as well as the launching of startup companies and open-source arrangements. It also results in the creation of new jobs.

“This grant provides a real boost towards all of these efforts.”

Yatin Karpe, senior manager for the office, said a variety of other services offered by OTT will also benefit from the KIG grant. These include seed grants and innovation grants to Lehigh faculty as well as seminars for faculty on intellectual property issues. The grant will also help provide student internship opportunities with OTT.

OTT also gives advice on intellectual property management to Northampton Community College (NCC) and to Lehigh Valley businesses that wish to explore the commercial potential of Lehigh University and NCC intellectual property, Karpe said.

An assist from alumni

Since OTT was formed in 2004, Lehigh inventors have disclosed more than 70 new inventions and filed patent applications on more than half that number. Eight patents have been issued to university researchers, and five startup companies have been formed based on Lehigh inventions.

OTT took in more than $300,000 in licensing revenues in fiscal year 2008 compared to $12,000 for fiscal year 2005.

The protection of intellectual property, said Karpe and Meischeid, includes patent application and filing, along with the time-consuming process of claim preparation, which requires retaining a patent attorney. Towards this end, OTT has established working relationships with Lehigh alumni who own or work in patent law firms.

One of these alumni, Kurt L. Ehresman ’88, is a partner in the Mid-Atlantic law firm of Saul Ewing. Another, Paul F. Prestia ’59, is a partner in the Philadelphia-based firm of RatnerPrestia.

“We have established strategic and cost-effective relationships with a few firms in order to facilitate efficient communication between faculty members and intellectual property attorneys,” said Karpe. “These help faculty understand the urgency of protecting their inventions, as well as the relationship between publication and intellectual property protection timing.”

The Keystone Innovation Grant program is a companion to the Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) program. KIZ zones were established in 2004 by a state economic stimulus package designed to align resources from colleges and universities, businesses, commercial lenders, venture capital and foundations.

The Southside Bethlehem KIZ, of which Lehigh is a partner, was one of the first of the state’s 29 KIZ zones to be established.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Friday, October 03, 2008

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