Four UALR students working with the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center in the College of Business are helping state researchers gauge the commercial potential of their discoveries and new technologies.
Students Rebecca Van Den Houte, Lacey Greer, Brandon Burroughs, and Brett Clark review university researchers’ initial invention disclosures for market potential under the direction of ASBTDC business consultant Nancy Knighten.
Inventors furnish the disclosures to their university upon the creation or conception of a new technology or invention, and the university commercialization offices share the ones they want reviewed with ASBTDC.
The screenings provide the universities with valuable information about the potential return on investment in further research. ASBTDC established the technology screening team earlier this year as part of its continued emphasis on encouraging technology transfer.
“Everyone agrees that innovation is an important part of economic development and job creation in Arkansas,” said Michael Singleton, ASBTDC Innovation and Market Research manager. “Commercialization of university research is a vital component to increasing the state’s innovation profile.”
Students on the technology screening team receive unique exposure to technology and innovation-based business concepts, ASBTDC state director Janet Roderick said.
“As part of an educational institution, we need to provide students with opportunities to understand what new-to-market product development might entail and prepare them to be future managers in the technology business arena,” said Roderick.
Van Den Houte, a graduate assistant at the center, will complete her MBA this month. Greer is a senior pursuing a BA in both English and professional and technical writing. Burroughs is a senior economics major, and Clark is a sophomore focusing on Nanotechnology. They are employed by ASBTDC as student workers.
With a variety of inventions coming out of UALR, UAMS, and other state research institutions, the multidisciplinary team of students allows for a broad, unbiased review of each technology and an objective assessment of commercialization potential.
“By working together, we complement each other,” said Van Den Houte. “For example, I have more of a business background, while Brett has a scientific background. He can help me understand the technical side, while I can help him understand the business side.”
Typically, the students begin by reviewing the invention disclosure then evaluating the technology’s potential domestic and international markets. They then research potential uses for the invention in addition to the initial purpose identified in the invention disclosure. Next, they evaluate industry trends and concerns and apply the information to the technology’s potential uses. Lastly, the students review the intellectual property landscape for any patents filed with a similar setting or use to that of the invention.
Each screening takes about two weeks. Upon completing a review, the team prepares a polished, informative brief detailing how to proceed with patenting the technology or advancing a business.
Van Den Houte believes the experience will serve her well in her professional life.
“Being able to process a lot of information and then condense it into a short summary will definitely prove valuable in the future,” she said. “I think these projects force me to look deeper and think outside the box and take into consideration the technology side, too.”
The ASBTDC program is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the UALR College of Business. ASBTDC assists new, existing, and expanding small businesses and innovation-based ventures.