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Auburn University’s commercialization metrics for technologies and other intellectual properties, or IP, are seeing a steady growth, and year-to-date totals in fiscal year 2020 suggest that this is a continuing trend.

The Office of Innovation Advancement & Commercialization, or IAC, reported $1,340,677.44 of licensing revenue for fiscal year 2019. This is a 15 percent increase over fiscal year 2018, and the trend is holding in 2020.

“Commercialization of IP is a long process that often takes years,” said Jan Thornton, IAC director. “The growth we are seeing now comes from work performed years before by Auburn researchers that was then licensed to industrial partners. Recently, we’ve been encouraged by an increase in inventions coming from the physical sciences. These include such areas as mechanical, electrical and computer, and other engineering disciplines, but also work coming out of the College of Sciences and Mathematics, including physics and mathematics.”

“Auburn’s sustained commercialization growth is a reflection of how dedicated our faculty researchers are to solving real-world problems through discovery and innovation,” said James Weyhenmeyer, vice president for research and economic development.

The IAC cites increases in many of the categories counted in its annual reporting processes for Auburn’s IP commercialization activities. In fiscal year 2019: 75 invention disclosures received; 12 standard U.S. patent applications filed; 84 provisional U.S. patent applications filed; 13 other U.S. patent applications filed; 18 U.S. patents issued; 11 licenses or options executed; two new start-up companies formed. Comparatively, thus far in fiscal year 2020, there already are 28 new invention disclosures and eight new license agreements in place, and because of a unique revenue windfall, the bottom line continues to increase.

“If this continues, we would also hope to see the upward trend continue for IP commercialization,” Thornton said.

Auburn reports its IP commercialization annually. The data is used for national reporting by AUTM, formerly known as the Association of University Technology Managers Inc., to portray a big picture of the importance and the contributions of academic technology transfer to the nation’s economy. According to AUTM, academic technology transfer contributed $1.7 trillion to the U.S. gross industrial output from 1996-2017, $865 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product and more than 13,000 new job-providing start-up companies.

Thornton credits the pursuit and inventiveness of Auburn’s faculty researchers for the positive growth in the university’s commercialization efforts. She adds that IAC is working to support this growth by providing increased awareness and more readily accessible information and assistance from the IAC office and its professional staff.

“We began programs during fiscal 2019 that focused on educating and providing research faculty with on-site assistance with their industry contracts and commercialization of their IP,” Thornton said. “With a quality professional staff in our office to assist faculty, we are making diligent efforts to reach out and be available to faculty, staff and students.”

IAC also is working on ways to better support start-up firms that are forming to commercialize AU IP developments with more available seed money, incubator space and other resources. As the university’s research park grows and expands its programs, Thornton says there are mechanisms also being put into place to more aggressively support Auburn’s inventors.

“We are pleased by what we are seeing with Auburn’s research growth and follow-on IP commercialization, and we are excited about its future,” Thornton said.

(Written by Mitch Emmons)