Drexel Applied Innovation directs and funds the commercialization process for innovations developed through the University’s basic and use-inspired research efforts. This process starts with protecting the intellectual property through filing for a federally issued patent, and then commercializing or “bringing it to market” through licensing to either an established company with related business interests and expertise, or a new venture specifically created by an entrepreneur or a faculty member. In both strategies, Drexel Applied Innovation collaborates with the principal investigator to manage the engagement with interested companies, entrepreneurs and investors.
The experienced Drexel Applied Innovation team works closely with members of the University research community in the invention disclosure, evaluation, patent application, marketing, licensing and start-up activities. The team determines the most appropriate strategy to protect and bring technologies to market, and then guides researchers with a primary goal of seeing innovations successfully commercialized and securing the associated reputational and financial benefits for both the researchers and the University. The University receives more than 100 new disclosures each year, covering a wide variety of technology areas, including life sciences, materials, software, communications and engineering. Each year on average 40-50 patents are issued to Drexel faculty, and the Drexel Applied Innovation team works closely with interested faculty to prepare, mentor and launch start-ups, averaging four to five companies a year.
Drexel Applied Innovation also funds the development of technologies through its Innovation Fund, which annually provides grants to accelerate early-stage development, and through its Proof of Concept Academy for launching faculty-related companies. On average, grants range from $75,000 to $100,000 from the Innovation Fund and $50,000 from the Academy. Drexel Applied Innovation has also established a Seed Fund in partnership with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania focused on funding promising technologies with successful outcomes from the Innovation Fund and the Academy, with investments between $125,000 and $250,000.
Additional services offered by Drexel Applied Innovation include operating the ic@3401 incubator in conjunction with the University City Science Center, which is open to all faculty pursuing venture-related activities; and actively collaborating with venture capitalists and private business partners to assist in the commercialization process. Also, Drexel Applied Innovation works closely with the Drexel-Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program, which promotes, develops and supports innovations to improve patient care. Unlike discovery research (the creation of new knowledge), translational research is centered on the practical clinical application of research results. Sponsored by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, an endowment of $20 million was created with equal contributions from the Foundation and Drexel, which provides proof of concept funds for diagnostic and life science technologies.
At Drexel University, student and faculty innovation is handled through separate but coordinated programs, because student-generated IP is owned by the student whereas faculty-generated IP is owned by the University, if developed using institutional resources. Student entrepreneurship is offered through the Close School of Entrepreneurship and the Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship, which provide instruction, mentoring, resources and space for Drexel student entrepreneurs. The Close School and Drexel Applied Innovation collaborate and leverage their University assets to advance the entire Drexel ecosystem.