Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Texas State experiments with paying faculty for invention disclosures

By Sarah Banick
Published: May 24th, 2023

A detailed article on Texas State’s pilot program to encourage disclosures through financial incentives appears in the May issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here.

What would happen if universities paid their faculty to disclose innovations? Texas State University (TXST) is finding out. Its pay for disclosures program is still in its infancy, but based on early returns it looks like the idea will pay off in spades for the small TTO.

Texas State’s new initiative grew out of its participation in the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program. TXST is winding down its I-Corps grant funding but will continue to serve as an I-Corps site. Jennifer Irvin, PhD, associate professor of chemistry, was PI for the grant and now leads the charge for the Faculty Innovation Accelerator Program (FIAP) as director of the Materials Application Research Center, which oversees FIAP.

Irvin says the I-Corps experience has been great in teaching the school’s faculty and students about the customer discovery process and other key start-up concepts, “but knowing there is a market is not the same as getting that product to market. We really want to take this to the next level,” which is what the FIAP program and its disclosure incentives are all about.

Texas State had $110 million in research expenditures in 2022 but averages only two to four invention disclosures a year. A new vice president for research set out to fix that.

The new VPR initiated the FIAP program, which is combining the disclosure incentive with a very generous royalty share.

Irvin says faculty members get a 50% share of all licensing fees that stem from their inventions, well above average and another way to gain researchers’ attention. “That’s huge,” she says. “Letting them know that there is something in it for them is a very important part of what we do.” Texas State works with an outside consulting firm to assist with commercialization efforts, and that firm provides training similar to the I-Corps model, addressing market analysis and the consultant’s role in finding a licensee after a patent is issued.

“We walk them through all of those things. If they do all of the training and their homework assignment to do their own customer discovery process, we give them $1,000 that goes into their indirect cost recovery account,” Irvin explains. Faculty can then use that money for whatever purpose they want, from paying salaries to travel to supplies.

“If they file an invention disclosure, then it goes to the consulting firm for the market analysis,” Irvin continues. “When it comes back to us, if what they’ve done is something useful, we’ll give them an additional $10,000 reward just for going through all of this.” Again, the funds go into their indirect cost recovery account for use however they prefer.

The first cohort of five teams went through training in March, and as of mid-April, they’ve already had two invention disclosures. “We’re already at what we did last year,” says Irvin. “If we have 25 teams go through this, and even ten of them submit invention disclosures, we’re already at a 200% to 400% increase over the previous year.”

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Invention Disclosure Management: Proven Strategies for Boosting Quantity and Assessing Quality is a three-session distance learning collection addressing key disclosure management challenges, including faculty outreach and engagement, effective triage, and standardizing post-disclosure activity and communication. Click here for more details.

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