FAQ & Help

What do we mean by “Innovation Development and Commercialization”? 

Generically speaking, the function of our office is often referred to simply as “technology transfer” – a seemingly self-explanatory phrase – movement of technology from one place to another.  But, even though the dictionary definition of “technology” is very broad, the word is frequently interpreted to mean a patentable invention. 

Innovation:  We use “innovation” because we want the UAlbany community to know that, in addition to inventions that grow out of scientific research, we support all innovation that can provide value to users beyond the audience that is already well-served through the traditional academic outlets of publication, conferences, and classroom teaching.  Have you written software for your own research that could be used, more or less “as is” by others?  If it were available, others might prefer to use your software rather than take the time and effort to build their own.  Have you accumulated data for your research that could provide intelligence to a company, enabling it to improve the products or services it offers to customers?  Has your research allowed you to distill criteria or rules that can serve as an indicator or diagnostic (in whatever field) that has value to practitioners who don’t typically follow the academic literature?  Have you developed unique teaching tools that could be used more broadly?  These are just a few examples of the broader scope of “innovation” that we support in addition to inventions.  A synonym with a legal flavor is “intellectual property.”

Development:  This word recognizes the fact that innovations at academic institutions are often embryonic and need to be further developed before they can be used by others.

Commercialization:  This word emphasizes that we support the entire continuum of activity from research through commercial development, whether by an existing company or a new entrepreneur-led start-up company.

What should I do if I have made an innovation that I think has value?

The first informal step is to contact our office.  You can call us at (518) 442-3270 to discuss your idea. The first formal step in the process is to submit a “New Technology Disclosure” form.

What are the innovation-related policies of UAlbany?

SUNY-wide policies guide the management of innovation development and commercialization at UAlbany:

Who owns innovations developed at UAlbany?

The following policies are used to determine ownership of innovations developed at UAlbany:

While each case is evaluated based on its specific facts, the basic principle is that SUNY or The Research Foundation for SUNY (by agreement between SUNY and RFSUNY) holds title to innovations developed by faculty members, employees, and students, as well as by others (e.g., visiting researchers) who make use of facilities owned or controlled by SUNY or RFSUNY.  As the steward of the innovation on behalf of SUNY/RFSUNY, the Office for Innovation Development and Commercialization evaluates the commercial potential of the innovation and the ability to acquire sufficient legal protection, and if appropriate invests time and money to protect, develop, and find or create a commercial outlet for, the innovation.  If the Office for Innovation Development and Commercialization decides not to pursue protection and further development, title may be returned to the sponsor of the work that led to the innovation, or to the creator, as specific circumstances apply.

Does the creator of an innovation get any tangible benefit from the commercialization of her innovation?

Yes.  Valid inventors of patentable inventions and authors and intellectual contributors to computer software are entitled to 40% of the gross royalties received by SUNY/RFSUNY from the commercialization of an innovation.  For other forms of innovation, the distribution of royalties is based on the unique facts of each case.

How does UAlbany connect with industry?

See How We Work with Business.

How does an academic innovation get commercialized?

The path from an academic innovation to a commercial product is often long and circuitous.  The absolute requisite is a relationship with an external party, usually a for-profit company.  To ensure clarity of understanding by both parties, the term of these relationships are written into appropriate agreements. Specific examples of agreements include:

Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA):  Used to set the ground rules for exchange and use of confidential or proprietary information.  A CDA is often the first agreement with a new potential collaborator.  It might provide the framework for discussing a potential research sponsorship.  It might allow a company to receive non-public information about an innovation the company wishes to evaluate for licensing.  [link to the “research tool”]

Material Transfer Agreement (MTA):  Used when a unique research material is being exchanged.  Typically restricts use to non-human research purposes.  Issues addressed include right to publish, ownership of, and rights to, intellectual property.  [link to the “research tool”]

Sponsored Research Agreement:  A company provides funds for a research project conducted at UAlbany under the direction of a UAlbany faculty member.  Issues addressed include scope of work, right to publish, ownership of, and rights to, intellectual property.

Collaboration Agreement:  UAlbany and the external party collaborate on a defined project.  Issues addressed include funding, scope of work, each party’s key people, each party’s specific responsibilities, communication plan, right to publish, ownership of, and rights to, intellectual property.

Option Agreement:  Provides the external party a defined period in which to evaluate an innovation for potential licensing.  May be exclusive or non-exclusive.  May involve an option fee or payment of costs for intellectual property protection during the option period.

License Agreement:  Grants the external party rights to practice the licensed intellectual property in order to develop a commercial product, process or service.  May be exclusive, specific to a field-of-use or a geographic region, or non-exclusive.  May be time-limited or for the life of the legal protection.  Diligence milestones ensure progress towards commercialization.  Financial terms are negotiated on a case-by-case basis taking into account a variety of factors, but may include upfront fee, patent cost reimbursement, annual fees, milestone payments, royalty based on sales, minimum royalties.