What to Do with Your University Invention (and Ideas for Creating New Ones)

Monday, May 22, 2017
A drawing from a US patent application, which describes a "method of manufacturing large dish reflectors for a solar concentrator apparatus," invented at the UA by Roger Angel and Blain Olbert, filed May 8, 2009. Image source: Google Patents.

A drawing from a US patent application, which describes a "method of manufacturing large dish reflectors for a solar concentrator apparatus," invented at the UA by Roger Angel and Blain Olbert, filed May 8, 2009. Image source: Google Patents.

Last year alone, the faculty, researchers and staff of the University of Arizona brought over 250 inventions to Tech Launch Arizona, the office that helps the UA community bring those inventions to the marketplace.

Where do all those inventions come from? What is their genesis? Any number of situations and activities can give rise to those novel ideas.

  • Have you identified a problem and developed a solution that addresses an unmet need?
  • Have you taken an existing product or service and altered or improved it with a new function or feature set?
  • Have you combined multiple ideas or technologies, possibly from various disciplines, and synthesized something unique?
  • Have you created a tool or process for research that may have a broader application than you originally thought?
  • Have you ever been doing any of the above and thought, “Wow, I didn’t expect THAT to happen!”

Many UA inventions – such as novel compounds, materials, drugs, devices, processes or software code – are developed from the outset with the ultimate goal of creating a product that solves a real-world problem. On the other hand, some are invented almost as if by accident, such as in the unexpected results of an experiment, or software that was developed for one application, but turns out with some adjustments to have another that the creator hadn’t considered.

In other words, if you’re a UA faculty member, a graduate student or staff member developing innovative solutions to hard problems, you are an inventor. If you’ve developed a new process or tool, you’re an inventor. If you develop technology or write software during the course of your work, you are most definitely an inventor.

It comes down to this: Through research and development, University of Arizona community members like you develop breakthrough ideas and inventions every day that can change the world.

Tech Launch Arizona provides the people and resources to help bring those inventions to the marketplace. From assessing the technical and commercial viability of inventions to protecting those inventions to commercializing them, TLA helps researchers turn their inventions into products that create jobs and improve lives. Through its Asset Development program, TLA even offers funding to help inventors move their early-stage inventions toward market-readiness.  

“Why is disclosing inventions important?”

Disclosure is the first step towards commercialization – the process of bringing an invention to the marketplace. It allows TLA to examine the patentability and market opportunities for your creation.
As the inventor, not only do you benefit in terms of advancing your professional reputation, but you also share in the financial return (as outlined in the UA’s Revenue Distribution model.)

Commercialization also gives entrepreneurial graduate students opportunities to lead UA startups, such as in the case of Dr. Shiva Planjery of Codelucida, and Dr. Loretta Mayer of Senestech. These and other examples of UA startups are on the TLA website

For faculty, commercialization activities are taken into account as part of the Promotion & Tenure review process. Finally, thinking about the global picture, commercialization makes your research relevant to the general public, which advances the reputation of your department, your college and the whole university. Through the commercialization of inventions, TLA and the UA help you amplify the impact of your research, with the ultimate goal of improving lives and positively impacting society and the economy.

“What do I do if I think I might have an invention?”

All you need to do is make a phone call. TLA’s licensing managers are ready to talk with you. They know the questions to ask and will help you through that initial conversation.

Coming out of that talk, they’ll work with you to complete a straightforward UA Invention Disclosure. That will start the process whereby TLA evaluates the invention to see if it has enough commercial value to merit moving it along the path to commercialization.

So, do you think you might have an invention yet to disclose?

Wherever it may be, no matter how early stage, TLA Licensing Managers want to hear about it. To start your conversation or just ask a question or two, contact one of the people below. And if you don’t know who to call, just contact Doug Hockstad, Assistant Vice President of Technology Transfer.

- written by
Paul Tumarkin