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Archer Norris

U of Oklahoma, i2e formalize joint efforts for start-ups, tech transfer

By Steve Lewis
Published: September 15th, 2009

The University of Oklahoma Office of Technology Development and private non-profit entrepreneurial consulting and services firm i2e have signed an agreement to work together to speed tech transfer and create start-up companies around OU technologies, which formalizes an existing relationship between OU and i2e that dates back several years. It will have a significant life sciences component since about half of OU’s IP portfolio is in the biomedical space. The agreement will focus on four areas: Increasing commercialization efficiency; connecting existing i2e clients with opportunities to license new technologies from OU’s portfolio; developing a system to help identify and connect OU students with existing entrepreneurs and start-ups; and identifying and pursuing funding opportunities. “This really lays out the framework of things we want to look at,” says Cameron McCoy, director of marketing and public relations in the school’s OTD. “We figured out how to best leverage our capabilities. This document allows us to define what we should be working together on.”

David Thomison, vice president for enterprise services at i2e, says the formal agreement “grew from this proactive relationship we’ve [had] for the past four to five years. We’ve looked at our track record and some decisions that we’ve made with them and learned from them. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh wow, we should do this.’ We think this will optimize the interaction, and as you have turnover within the different organizations, the formalization gives it a little more stability … and tends to eliminate any duplication.” i2e was originally founded as the Oklahoma Technology Development Corporation in 1997. Its mission is to provide advisory services, including business plan development, fund procurement, and networking, to start-up companies in the state. Thomison says i2e works with anywhere from 60 to 100 start-ups annually, including, but not limited to, university spinouts. The firm’s services vary for each company, but in general both sides work together to identify “one or two management-type individuals to manage the company through a commercial-scale prototype development,” he explains. The company also has access to angel or seed capital organizations and operates a state-sponsored gap fund of about $12 million from which it can make seed-stage equity investments in the $400,000 to $500,000 range. “We will run with those companies for 24 to 36 months until they’ve raised about $1.5 million,” Thomison says. “Oklahoma has very limited in-state venture capital, and about 80% to 90% percent of the money we raise comes from out of state. So we have to nurture these companies until they are attractive enough for a VC from out of state to come in and put in the additional $3 million, $5 million, or $10 million necessary to advance things. And we are actually turning it over to the VC in two to three years.”

i2e does not receive a cut of any royalties or an equity stake in the start-up companies except in cases where investments are made through the state-supported gap fund. “There we would take equity, board seats, and with regards to that investment, that one small function of our organization is a for-profit function,” Thomison says. Although i2e has helped other universities and non-profit research institutes in the state create start-ups, OU is the first school with which it has signed a formal agreement. Thomison says i2e is currently discussing similar formal agreements with two other major research universities in the state, though he declined to identify them. — and is “optimistic that we will be able to formalize a similar agreement based on some of the informal interactions.”

Source: Biotech Transfer Week

Posted under: IP Marketing eNews

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