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The Successful Work of the Fuentek and Deloitte Consulting Team at UIUC Has Continuing Impact on Commercialization Efforts

Fuentek and Deloitte Consulting have worked as a team with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Office of Technology Management (OTM) since 2001. The relationship began during the summer of 2001 when Fuentek and Deloitte Consulting (at the time Deloitte and Touche) teamed up to provide UIUC with portfolio screening and technology licensing services.

By Summer 2003, the Deloitte-Fuentek team team had screened over 730 technologies, identifying more than 250 as having commercial potential (100 with "some" potential and 152 with "substantial" potential). Those with substantial potential were thoroughly assessed by Fuentek engineers, and those that remained strong commercial candidates were marketed via technology briefings, Commercial Opportunity Announcements (COAs), Web sites, and more.

Between Summer 2001 and Spring 2005, UIUC executed almost 100 licenses. The OTM has seen a 70% increase in invention disclosures, a 47% increase in U.S. patent application filiings, a 100% increase in patents awarded, a 30% increase in licenses, and a 50% increase in start-ups.

Another advantage that came as a result of the Deloitte-Fuentek team's assessment process were potential collaborative partners identified for technologies that had been deemed to have low commercial value. In some cases, these identified partners had the knowledge and resources to help move that technology to a higher level of commercial potential.

In addition to performing these assessment and commercialization tasks, the team worked to train the OTM staff in the methods and activities needed to carry on the work.The Deloitte-Fuentek team continues to work with UIUC, but the OTM has grown significantly and currently ranks ninth among universities in regard to the number of patents issued, according to Mike Fritz, retired head of the OTM.

Since this work began with UIUC, many articles have been written about the immediate and continuing success of the UIUC OTM. Excerpts from some of those articles follow.

Article Excerpts

UI Department Back on Commercial Track

By Jodi Heckel; published online July 14, 2002; News-Gazette (Champaign, IL)

"They've [OTM] changed from a reactive to a proactive type of operation," [Joe Lyding, electrical and computing engineering professor] said. "Now, they look for things and make a strong effort to carry the ball and get things done, whereas before they reacted to whichever wheel was squeaking the loudest. They didn't have the resources to deal with the large intellectual property load this university generates."

The office started work on the backlog of technologies last summer, identifying and prioritizing those with commercial potential.

"Our campus felt the obligation to our faculty to get this stuff back on track," [Mike] Fritz [Head of OTM] said. "We tried to be very, very careful in this. I think the decisions we made were supported by good information." The UI hired the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche for an amount not to exceed $3 million to help screen the backlogged technologies and to market the most promising ones.

"When you look at the work they did, it turns out to be very economical," Fritz said. "This is a very labor-intensive and resource-intensive activity. We believe the revenue we generate for the university will more than offset the cost of doing technology transfer. That's what we see around the country." Fritz said one of his goals is to have a cadre of consultants the UI can use periodically to help evaluate technologies. "There's no way seven or eight tech managers can understand the breadth and depth of the research on campus," he said.

"One of the unique aspects of university intellectual property is you've got intellectual property coming from all directions and many different fields," Lyding agreed. "Being bombarded with so many different ideas from so many different quarters, you can't realistically assess the importance of all these. What you need is strong connections to firms on the outside in biotechnology or nanoelectronics, chemistry, the plants and animal sciences." 

The following are excerpts from an article published in the June 9, 2003, issue of Chicago Business on the success of the OTM.

A New Formula: U of I Works Harder to Get Research out of the Lab

By Paul Merrion; published June 09, 2003; Chicago Business

Historically, only a handful of the largest universities have capitalized successfully on their research capabilities, notes Michael Fritz, assistant vice-chancellor for research and director of the university's Office of Technology Management (OTM), which oversees patents and licenses. "The other hundred of us just fell asleep at the switch." However, nobody's pushing the snooze alarm anymore....

The pipeline [at U of I] is full of potential start-ups after the university doubled Mr. Fritz's budget and paid consultants from Deloitte & Touche LLP $3.3 million to clear a backlog of more than 700 ideas—or disclosures—submitted by researchers in recent years. That pileup had slowed patent applications, further delaying company startups and technology licensing.

Out of that backlog, the university has filed for 164 patents and signed 52 licenses... says Mr. Fritz. Fewer than 300 of the 732 disclosures were deemed to have no economic value.

A critical indicator: In the fiscal year ended June 30, five of 38 licenses went to start-up companies, and another 10 to 15 start-ups are expected to be licensed by the end of this month.

"You will see the level of new companies coming out of the University of Illinois substantially increase," says Mr. Fritz...

Although license income dipped to $6.5 million in fiscal 2002 and will drop further as some licenses expire this year, that annual revenue stream is projected to reach $17 million to $20 million within about five years, says Mr. Fritz, whose office has a budget of $3.5 million.

In October of 2003, the News-Gazette published an article about the successful transfer of a fuel cell technology to a Canadian startup company called Renew Power, another deal for which the Deloitte-Fuentek team provided assistance.

Office Screens University of Illinois Innovations for Commercial 'Gos'

By Don Dodson; published October 6, 2003; News Gazette (Champaign, IL)

For the University of Illinois, Renew was a dream situation: a case of experienced managers, with willing investors, looking for good technology on which they could build a business.

But the university wasn't always in a position to capitalize on such an opportunity.

"Two years ago, Renew would not have happened on this campus," said Michael Fritz, director of the UI's Office of Technology Management.

The reason: The office, charged with evaluating the commercial potential of technologies developed on campus, was understaffed. More than 700 technologies, some dating back as long as 10 years, were waiting to be reviewed.

In the words of UI Associate Vice President Stephen Bishop, the office was "disastrously ineffective" in commercializing technology. "A bottleneck," he called it.

Today, after enormous expenditures by the UI, the backlog has been unclogged, and the deals are beginning to flow. So far, 81 technologies from that backlog have been licensed, and more are to come. In the year that ended June 30, faculty and staff disclosed 146 technologies, up 30 percent from the previous year.

Plus, there are more people on board to sift through the technologies and figure out whether they have a marketable future. Fritz has a full-time staff of 21, up from six two years ago.

The office also relies on four consulting companies to help spell out the possibilities for the technologies. Those include:

  • Accounting/consulting giant Deloitte and Touche.
  • Science Applications International Corp., a national defense contractor that has an office in Champaign.
  • OJC Consulting, which has an office in downtown Urbana.
  • A Chicago firm with which the office is finalizing a contract.

Another article in the News-Gazette highlighted UIUC's commercialization efforts for a mini fuel cell. The Deloitte-Fuentek team was involved in the licensing efforts to INI Power Systems. Below are excerpts from that article:

UI Fuel Cells Promise to Keep Us Energized, Eventually

By Greg Kline, published online May 1, 2005; News-Gazette (Champaign, IL)

A mini fuel cell with advantages of traditional alkaline batteries but longer life, and replenishable on the fly, could eventually be used in a variety of portable electronic devices such as laptop computers.

University of Illinois researchers who created and are working on commercializing the membraneless cell have improved it with the addition of the alkaline, as opposed to acidic, chemistry common in batteries popular for portable devices. The researchers have applied for a patent.

[Engineering Professor Paul] Kenis cautioned that a lot of work remains to be done before a membraneless, alkaline fuel cell ends up in your laptop.

But he is involved in a company formed by former UI researcher Larry Markoski to bring a nonalkaline version of the laminar flow cell to market. INI Power Systems (think ILL-INI) got its start in the UI's business incubator before moving to North Carolina last year.

This final excerpt is from an article in the News-Gazette about the May 2005 retirement of Mike Fritz from the UIUC OTM.

Ex-Carle CEO known for civic involvement

By Don Dodson; published online May 8, 2005; News-Gazette (Champaign, IL)

In the last four years, the office has made big strides. Staff has increased from six to 21. The number of innovative disclosures has increased 70 percent in three years." The UI has jumped from 20th to ninth place among universities in terms of the number of patents issued, Fritz said. And last year, the UI spun out 11 new companies, most of them locating in Champaign-Urbana. 

For More Information

To learn more about this technology transfer success, contact:

Fuentek, LLC
info@fuentek.com
(919) 267-1200

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