Commercialization of UNR research goal of new firm
October 16, 2006
Fred Sibayan bets some of the intellectual property gathering dust at the University of Nevada, Reno, could be turned into profitable companies.
And the Reno-based technology entrepreneur is backing up his belief with a new company, Vortex Intellectual Property Exchange, to search out UNR research that could be commercially developed.
If Vortex Intellectual Property Exchange is successful in its search at UNR, Sibayan thinks the concept could be extended to other universities or even big companies that have orphan technology that hasn’t been brought to market.
The company has reached a teaming agreement with the university that sets its technology-transfer process into motion.
Sibayan was one of the pioneers of technology development in Silicon Valley. He co-founded the Web hosting giant Exodus Communications and invested widely in tech start-ups. He sees a strong likelihood that start-ups could flow from UNR’s labs as well.
In fact, he’s already developing a company known as Nevada Validation Technologies that uses high-resolution imaging technology created by James Henson of UNR’s department of electrical engineering.
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As Vortex Intellectual Property Exchange identifies research to be commercialized, it will either purchase it outright from its academic owners or strike licensing agreements. Vortex, meanwhile, will collect royalties or licensing fees from the companies that ultimately develop the research into commercial projects.
“This is quite a unique business model,” said Sibayan.
The big challenge and the value that Vortex brings to the process is searching through the university to find the right kind of research to bring to market.
Old research as well as new work will be studied by the company, and the UNR Technology Transfer Office is assisting with the search.
The negotiations, too, can be complex.
“Academia can be very difficult to work with,” Sibayan said.
One attraction his company will hold out: A pledge to build the staffs of new companies, whenever possible, with UNR graduates.
While Vortex initially focuses on UNR, Sibayan said he’s had a good response as well from executives of major companies whose labs have produced commercially viable research that never made it to the market.
“It’s not difficult for us to get into the corporations,” he said. “They recognize the problem.”
Efforts such as those undertaken by Vortex are viewed by economic development experts as important steps in establishing higher-skill, higher-pay jobs as the base of the region’s economy.
AngelouEconomics, the consulting firm that’s preparing the Target2010 plan for the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, listed technology transfers from labs at UNR and Desert Research Institute as one of the 10 key strategies toward strengthening the tech and entrepreneurial sectors in the region.