To be competitive in today’s rapidly changing globalized economy
requires new innovation-based approaches and technologies. The primary sources of these innovations? New discoveries and technologies developed at research universities. To be useful, these need to be translated into new products and systems for use in the marketplace through commercialization.
As an elite technological institution with a nationally ranked School of Business, Clarkson is well positioned to make its mark on the transforming economic landscape of the 21st century through the commercialization of breakthrough technologies developed in our laboratories.
This is where The Shipley Center for Innovation comes in. The Center plays a central role in managing the process of creating new enterprises that capitalize on emerging technologies developed at Clarkson’s Coulter School of Engineering and School of Arts & Sciences.
Yet, the potential of even the most promising new innovations cannot be realized if they never make it out of the laboratory. One of the challenges to successful technology transfer is to help scientists and engineers understand the process. That means bringing together academic science and industry: two groups that have been uneasy with each other in the past.
No one understands this better than Shipley Center Executive and Scientific Director Gabor Forgacs, a Distinguished University Professor of Physics at Clarkson, and a scientist who has successfully moved his own discoveries from the bench to the market.
Forgacs is a pioneer in “bioprinting,” a new scientific technique that seeks to build tissue on demand for research and regenerative medicine. He is the scientific founder of Organovo Inc., a biotech company focused on commercializing the breakthrough human tissue printing technology that stems from his research.
“Science and industry must understand each other in order
to form a successful commercialization partnership,” he says. “That really means learning to speak two languages — the language of science and the language of business. In today’s high-tech world,
it is absolutely crucial that these two groups work in partnership.”
Forgacs is assisted by Deputy Director Matt Draper, who manages the business side of the Center. Draper, who received his MBA from Clarkson in 2003, returned after working in industry for a number of years.
The two bring together complementary as well as overlapping knowledge from science and business. Both returned to Clarkson last year to take over the leadership of the Shipley Center and have been instrumental in continuing to expand and enhance the Center, which was first established in 1999. (Forgacs was on the faculty of Clarkson from 1986 – 2000.)
Today, the Center works with investors and funding agencies to develop start-up companies using technology related to advanced materials, bio- and nanotechnologies, the environment and sustainable
energy — all signature research areas at Clarkson. Forgacs and Draper
also provide assistance to the researchers on topics ranging from patent and business plan preparation to market research and customer
identification. Perhaps, most importantly, they help the innovators to articulate their own vision, and link them to investors and funding sources, as well as to alumni with relevant expertise.
One “unexpected” but “pleasant surprise” for Draper has been the number of entrepreneurially minded graduate and undergraduate students at Clarkson and the number of student initiatives.
“We are already working with two student companies and I expect that will grow,” he says.
For Forgacs, what is most exciting is Clarkson’s potential for technology transfer. As he puts it, “For the size of the school, Clarkson has enormous raw material to work with. There are so many talented scientists and engineers engaged in cutting-edge technologies. Our job is to dig it out.”