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NMSU offers ‘research-only’ license to stimulate more start-ups

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: August 9th, 2017

The TechMatch program at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center offers a research-only license as an incentive to get would-be entrepreneurs interested in one of several hundred technologies just waiting for someone to turn them into start-ups. It’s a key element of the program — essentially a self-serve menu of innovations backed by a web of interlocking support services designed to push products to market — but it’s just one arrow in the quiver.

“We developed two new programs, FundMatch and TechMatch, to help entrepreneurs who are interested in creating a business but don’t know what type they want to develop,” says Theresa “Terry” Lombard, MBA, director of the Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer at Arrowhead Center. FundMatch “offers funding capabilities to eligible individuals who already know they’re going to take a technology and turn it into a business,” she says. “TechMatch gives them the ability to match their interests to the technologies that are available.”

The research-only license “allows them to securely and comfortably explore the technology further without the commitment of an option or a license agreement.” The best next step, she explains, may be additional development in an I-Corps prep program or taking part in a proof-of-concept accelerator program.

“You’re allowed to do research only” with the limited license, Lombard emphasizes, “not product development or creation of derivative works. It’s just for exploration of the technology.” There is, of course, “some confidentiality involved as well,” she adds.

And while each research-only agreement is “not quite custom each time,” it is, she notes, “particular to each technology.” Otherwise, she says, “the biggest way it’s different is there’s no cost involved, and with options and license agreements, there is.”

The information an entrepreneur gathers about a technology under a research-only license may, of course, result in a “no-go” decision, she emphasizes, but even that is an overall positive for the technology because the experience can provide useful information to the inventors about what the market would rather have. “The information can help accelerate the technology,” she says.

Relationship management is a key part of the program, Lombard adds. In about 30% of research-only licenses, inventors and entrepreneurs do come together to form a start-up. TechMatch not only assists in bringing the two together, but also offers help in deciding on which field of use makes the most sense based on market needs. “Like all license agreements, we have provisions to make sure technologies don’t sit on shelves,” she says, “and to make sure the start-up isn’t hurt up front.”

Says Lombard, “TechMatch is a great way for people to explore technology in a limited-risk environment without fear,” she says. “But the key is you must have fertile ground to help them grow something wonderful.”

A detailed article on the TechMatch research-only license appears in the July issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To access the full article, along with the publication’s 10-year archive of best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE

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