Under Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Purdue Pumping Out Startups
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startups to license university-owned technology, a practice that has been instituted at other schools. Express licenses have helped Purdue turn around those deals more quickly, Hanak says. “It used to take months, if not in excess of a year, to negotiate a license.”
In addition, the university clarified its intellectual property rules to make it clear that students own the rights to any technology they developed on campus, as long as any resources they used were “part of a course and were available to all students in the course; that the student was not paid by the university or a third party; and the class or project was not supported by a corporation or government grant or contract.”
The policy changes “were really critical in helping to foster a culture and an atmosphere” where researchers, students, and staff are now more comfortable turning their ideas into startups, Hanak says.
The university also invested in new programs, such as creating the Purdue Foundry in 2013. The organization offers startups access to office and lab space. It also puts on events and helps campus entrepreneurs connect with mentors and potential investors, work on business strategy and market research, and access other services.
Now the challenge for Purdue, like a lot of other schools, is to continue producing spinouts and entrepreneurs—and helping them build successful businesses. That’s much easier said than done. But at least one outside observer thinks the university is on the right track.
“I like what they’re doing,” says Don Aquilano, a managing partner of Allos Ventures, a venture capital firm based near Indianapolis. “They made IP and tech transfer more staff- and faculty-friendly. They’ve really invested in buildings and shared working space, but also the programs that help support that ecosystem there.”
Aquilano says Allos hasn’t invested in any Purdue spinouts, but he’s keeping an eye on what’s happening there and hopes to find one (or perhaps more) that are a good fit for his fund.