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University-Industry Engagement Advisor

Statewide Kentucky partnership to boost economy, compete with innovation centers


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 30th, 2020

An in-depth article on Kentucky’s statewide commercialization partnership appears in the September issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, click here.

When universities are in a rural area, far from the country’s innovation centers, TTOs might think they face an impossible competitive disadvantage against schools near areas like Silicon Valley, Boston, or Chicago. But there is strength in numbers, and some rural schools are partnering with other regional universities, economic development organizations, and government agencies and pooling their resources. One of the most successful examples is taking place in Kentucky, where Kentucky Commercialization Ventures (KCV) is proving that TTOs outside of the innovation centers can compete on near-equal footing.

KCV is a statewide partnership focused on commercialization and innovation impact. Its model of shared resources can serve as an example for other TTOs that are in “flyover” regions. The University of Louisville (UofL), University of Kentucky (UK), Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC), and KY Innovation (part of the state’s Cabinet for Economic Development) are partners in KCV. KSTC is the operating entity for KCV, and is set up as a private, nonprofit corporation that has worked on commercialization projects with both UK and UofL, while also administering some of the funding for KCV start-ups. KY Innovation, the state’s office for entrepreneurial and small business support, currently provides 100% of the program’s financial support.

Allen Morris, executive director of the Commercialization EPI-Center at UofL, says the partnership allows the state’s R-1 research universities, UofL and UK, to extend their expertise in technology commercialization to schools around the state. The goal is to drive commercialization and economic development throughout Kentucky.

“When Kentucky asks us to help drive commercialization, we try to do so,” Morris says. “This is an opportunity to help our sister institutions. We at UofL have a lot of earned expertise in this area, and with KCV we want to use all of that experience and expertise to help our sister institutions across the state launch innovative start-ups, collaborate with industry and, ultimately, get their technologies to market.”

KCV came together as a final manifestation of ideas percolating at Kentucky’s economic development organizations and university technology transfer offices for quite some time.

“I think KCV is unique,” says Ian McClure, executive director of the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) at the University of Kentucky. “There are many other partnerships, but KCV is a partnership that is 100% state-funded.” McClure also points out that this partnership is unique because it includes every single public institution in the state.

KCV functions as a regional technology transfer office for all Kentucky’s non-R1 institutions, which are each partners in the effort. That includes not only UK and UofL, but also Eastern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University (the state’s HBCU), Morehead State University, Murray State University, Northern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University; and all of the state’s community and technical colleges.

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Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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