Tech Transfer eNews Blog

U of Iowa considers licensing works of art from its collection


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: August 21st, 2019

The University of Iowa (UI) is calling on potential partners to help monetize its innovations — not just in science and technology, but in art, too.

In light of tight budgets and staffing, UI is looking for outside help to evaluate university technologies for commercial potential, market those technologies by reaching out to companies and potential customers, and help close new deals. In addition, UI wants help licensing its precious works and art collections for the very first time.

“A lot of the departments and schools around the university that have not traditionally been involved in commercialization are certainly looking for ways in which to find supplemental funding to support their programs,” says Marie Kerbeshian, executive director of the nonprofit UI Research Foundation. “And artwork is one.”

There are 15,000 pieces at the UI Stanley Museum of Art. Rather than sell them, the university –through the Research Foundation — aims to license out images of artworks for use on greeting cards, calendars, clothing and other products in areas outside of UI’s expertise. A commercial partner could help catalog its potentially licensable works, digitally render the images, and then market them to retailers.

Revenues earned through licensing would then go back into the museum, which is currently raising $25 million to rebuild after a 2008 flood.

“It would be helpful for [the museum] to be able to go through their portfolio to see — is there any potential there? And really supplement them as they’re working on fundraising for their new building,” says Kerbeshian.

The move to commercialize UI art and bring in marketing help is part of an effort to address the university’s diminishing returns from technology licenses. Most notably, UI stopped receiving income from its groundbreaking “CMV promoter” biotechnology, which over its patent life generated $170 million for the university and its inventors.

In just the last year the Research Foundation cut a third of its workforce through furloughs and attrition, bringing its staff total to nine. “We still want to give faculty the service they deserve and expect,” she said. “And we want to be good partners for companies that work with us. We don’t want to be the bottleneck.”

To supplement the work of its licensing associates, “we are looking for support in the middle,” Kerbashian adds. “We are [seeking] to identify a partner who can supplement what our licensing staff does.”

Source: The Gazette

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