The community of Brookings, South Dakota Innovation Partners (SDIP) and the South Dakota State University are working together to leverage the research, relationships and innovation at the university to create high-paying jobs, license technology and create economic prosperity in the region. The increased industry engagement can be shown in the recent number of agreements (non-disclosure, material transfer, license, collaboration, etc.) between the university and industry. FY2003 yielded five agreements while FY2013 saw 203 executed agreements.
The university has partnered with SDIP to assist university employee-created companies and has worked with both the Brookings community and SDIP to help those companies survive the valley of death, continue to de-risk the technology and make it more attractive to industry. While certain areas of research have strong industry ties that make technology developed at the university readily available for industry license or for a startup to thrive, the university, SDIP and the Brookings community have heavily invested in making it possible for a startup to succeed with or without established industry contacts.
SDIP has continued to grow with university support. SDIP currently licenses technology from other institutions across the nation and formed strategic partnerships worldwide. SDIP is able to provide researchers with the ability to become a chief scientific officer of a startup company while letting the university and SDIP provide coverage in business and legal areas. Furthermore, the engagement with the local community has provided these companies, and others, with the facilities and capacity to take ideas and inventions past the bench top, over the valley of death and from proof of concept through pilot and commercial-scale plants.
Since the university and SDIP formalized a partnership in November, 2009, the two have licensed 21 university technologies through 16 license agreements from 10 different research labs. Since 2011, these technologies have formed the base and expansion of seven different startup companies in engineering, animal health, pharmaceuticals, human health, biofuels and others across all disciplines. These companies currently employ more than 35 full-time employees, have 37 patents and pending patent applications and more than 35 worldwide strategic partnerships.
The researchers involved have been able to fund their work through Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) funding, venture funding and other private contributions while collaborating with researchers and industry around the world. Company growth and expansion have occurred rapidly as the companies have raised more than $26 million in private equity. These startups have more than doubled the state average of SBIR proposals per year and have been awarded more than $1.3 million in Phase I and II funding since 2011. Public or private grants have added approximately $5 million in that same timeframe. Prairie AquaTech, which started as an invention disclosure in 2011, has raised $2 million in private and public funding and is on a $10 million capital project building a pilot plant with the help of the university, BEDC and SD Soybean Processors.
The Technology Transfer Office (TTO) has also partnered with SDIP this year to establish a joint group of marketing analysts. These analysts are graduate students in scientific disciplines. They are jointly trained by SDIP and the TTO on areas ranging from marketing reviews to intellectual property reviews. They then are given invention disclosures from the TTO to analyze and provide opinions on all matters of marketing and commercialization in reports generated by the analysts. Additionally, they work with the university startup companies and SDIP to perform background analysis and groundwork for communications with potential industry collaborators or partners. In the first year of the program, these analysts have evaluated more than 20 technologies, generated reports, participated in meetings with researchers and the TTO and helped the TTO make informed decisions on patentability, market potential and finding connections within the marketplace for university innovation.
The preceding text is an excerpt from the Designation Program Submission for South Dakota State University dated May 12, 2014.