Last year, Fort Collins non-profit CSU Ventures helped Colorado State University researchers and professors launch eight startup companies, license 31 inventions to Colorado companies and file 148 patents for intellectual property stemming from CSU research.
CSU Ventures serves as the technology transfer and commercialization agent for the university. They focus on helping CSU faculty and staff with technology patenting, licensing, partnership building and entrepreneurship related to intellectual property (IP) discovered through this research.
What they’re about
CSURF (Colorado State University Research Foundation) originally founded CSU Ventures in 2007, and as of April 2014, only 13 people make up the Fort Collins office with five more on the Board of Directors.
This mighty but small team continues to churn out success stories from CSU, one of the top performing research institutions in the US, with about $313 million in research spending for FY 2013.
There are no restrictions on the type of IP professors or researchers can come to CSU Ventures with for assistance, but the decision to create a startup based on that IP is understandably much more involved.
“When it comes to deciding if a startup is appropriate, it’s largely three things: is there a technology that’s appropriate for a company, is there a professor who’s interested in helping the startup company, and third is there a market opportunity," said Jeremy Nelson, Director of Licensing and Business Development. "When those three things align, we’re full force ahead on helping the faculty form a company."
The eight startup companies launched in 2013 include: CETYA Therapeutics, Colorado MicroTech, E-FLUX, Endolytics, Hyperion, JobZology, Mantel Technologies and MonImmune Therapeutics.
While a significant portion of invention disclosures come from science and engineering, CSU Ventures also enjoys working closely with innovations from other departments such as software applications. JobZology, for example, which was launched last year and spun out of CSU-originated technology in April 2012, creates cloud-based software that uses self-assessments and a scientific methodology to match employers with job seekers, a process proven by a research grant at Colorado State University.
“They’re a good example of a couple of CSU faculty excited about their work,” said Nelson. "Thinking it should be taken outside of the realm of academics, get out there and actually help people and companies connect. We helped connect them to some business drivers that really sort of managed the day to day of the company."
How they make it happen
The goal for CSU Ventures is to help CSU researchers see their innovations make it to the marketplace. Over the years, this has come to mean a variety of actions, such as helping the innovator find a licensee to pay for the patent, sponsoring the patent themselves, negotiating the license, marketing the innovation, and, most recently, forming a startup. They use a variety of marketing strategies to connect the CSU member to partners and investors much like any other company marketing strategy.
Recently, they strengthened ties with Rocky Mountain Innosphere, a nonprofit technology incubator devoted to the development and success of high-impact scientific and technology startup companies, to provide a “Technology to Market Process” for startup companies spinning out of Colorado State University.
Mike Freeman, Innosphere CEO, said in an interview this past September, “We want to see at least 3-5 companies coming out of CSU into the Innosphere each year,” and estimated at that time about one-third of Innosphere’s current clients were CSU-based spinoffs.
In addition to the marketing and startup help, CSU Ventures also organizes student groups to do market research and analysis on new technologies, rent space in the CSU lab and sponsor research to further drive down the price for CSU faculty to see their innovations come to light.
How to get involved
CSU Ventures keeps an updated list of available intellectual property represented by the non-profit. It’s broken down by industry and details whether the IP is seeking a license or who the licensing manager is to contact. Their website includes a list of resources for funding opportunities and a startup guide for companies. They also highlight which startup companies successfully launched out of CSU Ventures, which companies are in the early-stages seeking executive-level help and financial support, and which technologies they consider “Candidate Technologies” in case investors and entreprenuers want to build a company from the beginning.
In addition to scouring their website, you can also attend the CSU Ventures 2014 Annual Innovation Symposium this Friday, April 25, 2014, to hear from key Colorado companies and CSU lab groups about their work, skillsets they need and visions for the future.
“It’s more about helping steer them in the right direction rather than take the reins,” Nelson said.
They make the licensing and startup process easier, so CSU professors can focus on their research and have that research make a difference in Colorado. Just take a look at their 2013 Annual Report for proof of how successful and productive their processes have become.