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CATI takes tech transfer model national

Sturtevant, Wis. - The Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation, a non-profit intellectual property management group that attempts to breath commercial life into unused and underused technologies, is taking its technology transfer model to national public markets.

If successful at facilitating the launch of new products and companies in Delaware, CATI could spur economic development in Wisconsin and elsewhere while building connections for further business creation and expansion in a variety of tech sectors.

The State of Delaware Economic Development Office has contracted with CATI to assess 255 patents from Delaware-based Dupont Corp., a diverse multinational offering products and services in agriculture, nutrition, electronics, and communications; and Hercules Inc., a chemical company with subsidiaries specializing in wood, fiber, and paper products and services.

CATI has finished assessing almost half of these patents and is in the process of establishing business programs to market and commercialize the technologies.

“There will be potential to get some licensing from the Delaware program to companies in Wisconsin, no doubt about that,” said Matt Wagner, executive director of CATI.
Leveraging geography

Wagner said that collaboration across state and national boundaries is inherent to the execution of any viable technology transfer initiative. Leveraging dispersed resources, infrastructure, and nodes of concentrated expertise is fundamental to building business around underutilized patents.

“It's impossible to do everything within your own borders,” he said. “Tech transfer, from a geographic standpoint, is pretty wide.”

Delaware's patent portfolio contains a spectrum of biological and mechanical technologies. It includes methods for plant and seed modification, gene-based technology, analytical methods, and instrument technology, among others.

Wagner said having a good understanding of the field in which the technology will operate is crucial to assessing a patent. The CATI staff - composed of experts from academic, workforce, and economic development organizations in southeastern Wisconsin - will conduct patent searches to determine whether patents have been made obsolete by more recent inventions, the length of time remaining on patent protection, and the stage of the technologies.

The value of a patent can be increased if it is "platform in nature" and might enable future applications. Patents judged to have commercialization potential within 18 to 24 months are also valued more highly, Wagner added.

“Obviously, for the state's sake, we're trying to get a couple of good wins and that usually takes some late-stage technologies that are more applied,” Wagner said.

Commercial promise

Of the 105 patents that CATI has already reviewed, between 10 and 15 percent of them show promise for commercialization within the first three years, said Kyle Buzzard, director of the Delaware Entrepreneurial & Small Business Support Center of Excellence.

"We may be looking at five new businesses in the first three to four years," Buzzard said. "We see this as being quite the catalyst for our small business entrepreneurs."

The Delaware project is the first time CATI has been asked to replicate its private sector tech transfer model outside of state. For this model, CATI won a 2006 Technology Based Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council.

Buzzard said the CATI team was a natural fit for Delaware because it approaches the world of intellectual property from a community-focused, economic development point of view.

“They have assembled a group of experts with years of experience and an excellent eye for the commercial potential in creating business around a technology,” he said.

“They were the only group that could not only partner with us to assess the merits of the technologies, but also establish a proactive program for marketing and licensing,” added Judy McKinney-Cherry, director of Delaware’s Economic Development Office.

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