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Turning discoveries into dollars

January 29, 2001

Austin Peay is one of five TBR schools given the chance--and $579,000--to turn biotechnological ideas patented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory into useful, marketable products.

Success could mean big bucks for the University. Nashville's Vanderbilt University made $1.5 million last year.

According to the Association of University Technology Managers, academic research in the United States and Canada generated $40 billion and supported 270,000 jobs in 1999. More than 344 companies were launched by some 3,600 patents, most in the state where the patent originated.

Tennessee is a bit behind. “We're just beginning to do this kind of thing,” said program coordinator and dean of extended and distance education Dr. Stanley Groppel, who was quoted in articles published in “The Leaf Chronicle” and “The Tennessean.” Groppel, who worked at Murray State 10 years ago, says that university was already “working hard” on technology transfer more than a decade ago.

Along with giving the state a technological and economic boost, originators of the program—sponsored through the National Science Foundation and dubbed “Partnerships for Innovation”—will make learning more relevant by exposing students to real-world problems. Long term, the benefits could be even more significant.

“Some of these ideas may pan out and provide a benefit to society,” noted a Tennessee Tech faculty member.