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Research & Development: Call This an Inventive Approach

Oct. 31, 2012
The federal government and a graduate school have set up an innovative partnership.

In October, Cornell University and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) announced a first-of-its-kind agreement that aims to speed commercialization of new technologies. The DOC will station someone from its U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at Cornell's new applied sciences and engineering graduate school in New York City.
"By installing a permanent staff member of the U.S. Commerce Department at Cornell's NYC Tech campus, the department will be bringing its full suite of resources to the university community, helping connect students, faculty and mentors to early-stage investors, intellectual property strategies, export assistance tools, government grants, and academic partners. The new partnership will help Cornell's new academic institution break down the traditional barriers that exist between graduate education and the research and development of technology products," notes the department.

"By bringing the full suite of our innovation-enabling resources to bear on this campus, we're not just able to meet the research, development, and commercialization needs of regional enterprises in real time — we'll also be able to test new ways to move ideas from the lab to the marketplace," says David Kappos, director of the USPTO. "This collaboration allows us to optimize intellectual property for the 21st century and further empowers universities to fuel our nation's innovation ecosystem."

"This partnership with the Department of Commerce will not only bring a new resource to the campus and to New York's tech entrepreneurs, it will also help create a new dialogue about intellectual property in the information age to help improve the innovation process in the United States," adds David Skorton, president of Cornell.

USPTO staffer Sue Purvis, whose title is Innovation and Outreach Coordinator, already has set up shop at Cornell NYC Tech's interim quarters, space donated by Google in the Internet behemoth's massive Manhattan building. At this point, what she'll be doing with Cornell hasn't been pinned down. It may involve activities such as one-on-one consulting, as well as giving classes. It's too early to cite specific prospective subjects, she says, but existing USPTO workshops likely will form the basis for any initial classes.

The inaugural group of full-time students at the school will start studies in January. (This "small and highly selective beta class" will pursue a one-year, two-semester program for a master of engineering degree in computer science.) However, Purvis hopes to begin working with faculty before the end of 2012. Her brief extends beyond Cornell to the entire region. She's already heard from people at other local universities and companies. There's no formal or prescribed procedure to touch base with her.

Let's hope the partnership proves productive. If it does, the approach certainly lends itself to wider adoption throughout the U.S.

By the way, the new applied sciences and engineering graduate school is novel in its own right. Cornell and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are jointly developing it after winning a competition sponsored by New York City to create a world-class technology-focused graduate institution (see: "The Big Apple Has a Peach of an Idea"). The city is providing significant funding and land to the venture. The school expects to relocate to a permanent campus on Roosevelt Island, in the East River off Manhattan, in 2017.

Furthermore, New York is experiencing a boom in high-technology startups, particularly ones related to Internet and mobile technologies. A recent study "New Tech City" (www.nycfuture.org/images_pdfs/pdfs/NewTechCity.pdf) notes that the city has the fastest growing tech sector in the nation and has jumped past Boston to become second only to Silicon Valley, which remains far ahead of all other regions.

The pickup in technology-development efforts in the city even involves the process industries — at least its pharmaceuticals/life sciences segment. Roche Holding Ltd. is moving a research unit and about 200 jobs from New Jersey to a building being constructed on the east side of Manhattan. That building will be the second in a science park near several major medical centers. Its developer reportedly has signed another biotech company for a similar amount of space as Roche in the building. Eli Lilly and Pfizer already have research operations in the initial building.

Perhaps more noteworthy to most New Yorkers, though, is the move of the pro basketball Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

MARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can e-mail him at [email protected]

Be sure to check out his page.

About the Author

Mark Rosenzweig | Former Editor-in-Chief

Mark Rosenzweig is Chemical Processing's former editor-in-chief. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' magazine Chemical Engineering Progress. Before that, he held a variety of roles, including European editor and managing editor, at Chemical Engineering. He has received a prestigious Neal award from American Business Media. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from The Cooper Union. His collection of typewriters now exceeds 100, and he has driven a 1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk for more than 40 years.

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