By: Cassidy Delamarter, USF Communications and Marketing
The University of South Florida saw a sharp rise in the number of inventions and technologies submitted to the USF Tech Transfer Office – a springboard to turning ideas into global solutions and licensed products. Ranking 15th among American public research universities generating new patents, the number of new inventions, technologies and works of authorship formally disclosed by USF researchers is up nearly 25 percent since 2019.
The secret behind the rise: the implementation of new tools, the help of interns and consistent, high-level performance from USF inventors.
To streamline the disclosure process prior to filing for a patent, the Tech Transfer Office launched an inventor portal last year, replacing handwritten forms with an organized system that hosts all the necessary documents and resources in one place. Since then, the disclosures have steadily increased, growing to 228 in fiscal year 2023 – a result the team believes is due to the simplified process.
“I’ve used the new inventor portal a couple of times now and it’s much easier to use now than before,” said John Cotter, a USF alumnus whom Tech Transfer is helping take his work to the next level.
Cotter, a recent USF mechanical engineering graduate, dedicated his doctoral studies to creating a lumber alternative using recycled plastics. Earlier this year, the team helped Cotter take the necessary steps to patent his invention.
“The Tech Transfer Office has been helpful throughout,” Cotter said. “Sometimes, things related to patents take weird turns, but they help you understand them and how to navigate them.”
A team of graduate student interns assists by extensively examining each innovation’s novelty to determine if it can be patented. By confirming if it meets the novelty requirements set by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the interns save the inventor time, allowing them to focus more on their research. Led by intern program coordinator Cheryl Abrigo, the team scours the internet, searching sites such as patent databases, YouTube, Amazon and Florida Sun Biz, to ensure the invention is not already publicly available or being used by a business.
“The goal of technology transfer is to disseminate the results of academic research or scholarly study into commercial products for the benefit of society,” Abrigo said. “By gathering this information, the interns are able to help determine the next steps for each researcher and hopefully get them to market quicker.”
For Cotter, the next steps were further testing his nailable rubber concrete and publishing the results. Now Tech Transfer is helping him begin a startup company to manufacture the concrete into fences and eventually grow into other sectors.
Tech Transfer launched a site where technologies and inventions, such as Cotter’s, are visible to the public after the disclosure process is completed. This allows businesses and entrepreneurs to review what technologies are available and submit inquiries for anything they are interested in licensing. The interns will then perform background checks on the business and its owner to ensure the legitimacy of the request to protect USF inventors.
Sylvia Thomas, USF vice president of research and innovation, says the students play an integral role. “They also acquire real-world experience and valuable skills while helping to assess the value and commercial potential of USF intellectual property.”
Intern Charan Raj Reddy is studying engineering management and says he’s learned how technology transfer serves as a critical bridge between academic research and industry.
“This internship enriched my understanding of technology transfer, equipping me with vital skills in evaluating commercial potential, conducting market research and effectively communicating technology value, all pivotal for my future engineering management roles,” he said.
For undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing an internship with the Tech Transfer Office, learn more here.