Researchers at West Virginia University are continually developing breakthroughs and prospective new goods for commercialization, a process that the institution promotes for the economic growth of the entire state.
Erienne Olesh, executive director of student and faculty innovation at West Virginia University, stated that Tech Transfer, an office that helps translate research projects into commercial products, is one of the university’s most significant contributions to the state’s technology sector, provided that the research results in a new type of innovation.
“They work with researchers, faculty members, and our doctors at the hospital, and whenever anyone has a new discovery or invention or believes that, through their research, they’ve stumbled upon something new or creative that could be developed into a potential product, the Technology Transfer office will work with that individual to conduct an initial assessment of the technology and then guide them through the patenting process,” Olesh explained. Then, they strive to obtain a licence for this technology.
Olesh explained that, in the case of a medical technology invention, the Technology Transfer office will determine which medical firms are aligned with the possible product and then engage with those companies to licence the technology or further develop it through funded research.
She said that the greater the number of researchers who are able to utilise the Technology Transfer system, the more money comes into West Virginia as a whole, and economic improvements for the state are a win for everyone.
“The most essential aspect of this is that WVU generates $250 million annually in research spending,” Olesh said. “We want to see those monies utilised most effectively. If the university and a researcher or inventor are able to produce a product that can be licenced or formed into a new firm, the state can generate economic money.
“With Technology Transfer offices, you invest a great deal of money and assume a great deal of risk, but at some time, you anticipate a substantial return.”
Olesh stated that having such a system in place in West Virginia demonstrates that such a high level of research, innovation, and entrepreneurship is achievable in a rural state.
“For many, many years, entrepreneurialism and innovation have been more associated with coastal states and regions, but I believe we’ve seen a surge in recent years of these sorts of activities occurring in West Virginia,” said Olesh. I believe it is crucial for WVU to participate and take the lead in these endeavours.
Both Iconic Air and Endolumik, which began as research projects and are now profitable businesses in the carbon emissions and medical industries, respectively, are examples of the Tech Transfer office’s success.
“Those are truly outstanding representations of what is possible and what can come out of West Virginia,” said Olesh. They have fantastic tales to tell.
One of the reasons why West Virginia has suffered in the past, according to Olesh, is a lack of a “strong entrepreneurial bench.” She added that major technological centres, such as Silicon Valley, have amassed a significant pool of seasoned entrepreneurs who can advise and mentor future generations and work on large initiatives.
She feels, however, that West Virginia is taking the appropriate steps to overcome this impediment.
Olesh stated, “We’re making progress in the right way, but we’ve got to overcome this obstacle.” “We also hear from people frequently, particularly our younger startup firms attempting to get traction, that being in a more rural region is advantageous. Typically, rural regions receive less private investment, whether from angel investors, seed investors, or venture capitalists.
SBIR and STTR, the federal government award money, are a particular area of concentration for me. This is a geographic leveller. These awards are accessible to all applicants. They are competitive, but they are not venture capital.”
Olesh stated that a number of WVU firms at the fundraising round are thriving and progressing in the correct manner.
Despite the difficulties, she feels that West Virginia University and the state as a whole have never been better positioned to take use of the available money to advance innovation, and she is eager to see what the university’s researchers create next.
“What we are witnessing right now, particularly from the National Science Foundation, is a massive push to develop innovation and entrepreneurial resources in more remote areas and regions,” Olesh stated. “There has been an enormous amount of federal funding directed in this manner, notably towards institutions with strong innovation and research rates but low startup activity and commercialization rates…
“Since we continue to receive funds, we are now quite enthusiastic. We got the impression that the federal government understands some of the obstacles we have encountered and is attempting to steer resources towards their resolution. We are in a wonderful position right now to leverage on federal funds and continue to fuel the momentum that has already been established in West Virginia.”