N.C. A&T selected for HBCU research commercialization project

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February 19, 2014

A group of historically black universities across the country has been selected for an initiative to bring more of the technology created by their research out of the lab to create new revenue, companies and jobs.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is one of 15 schools selected for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Innovation and Entrepreneurship Collaborative.  A total of 44 schools applied to join the project. N.C. A&T and Fayetteville State University were selected from North Carolina.

“Commercializing technology generated by A&T researchers will generate revenue for the university and holds the potential for new companies and jobs for Greensboro and the Piedmont Triad,” said Wayne Szafranski, assistant vice chancellor for outreach and economic development.

“This is an area where A&T already has had some success, and we know we have more technology with commercial potential. This program will help us create greater awareness and ability, all across the campus, to capitalize on the technology our faculty and students are creating.”

The collaborative’s multi-year program will kick off with a five-day conference on innovation and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley next month. Each school will send two faculty members, a student, and an administrator to hear from officials of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), and other groups.

The students also will attend a session at Google headquarters as new members of the Student University Innovation Fellows program of the NCIIA.

A&T will send Szafranski; Dr. Gerry Dozier, chairman of the Department of Computer Science; Dr. Shengmin Sang, a researcher at the Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies in Kannapolis; and Joseph Shelton, a doctoral student in computer science.

Dozier and Sang are prolific researchers who both have generated multiple invention and innovation disclosures. Dozier specializes in genetic and evolutionary computing and biometrics; Sang’s focus is on functional foods.

They will come back with a better sense of what it takes to start a business and with new contacts among Silicon Valley technology companies and investment firms.

Each school will create campus-wide courses and programs to engage students and faculty in the process of commercializing innovations generated by funded research.  Their representatives at the conference will serve as a resource for other faculty members and students interested in creating spinoff firms and other commercialization efforts.

 “There are relatively fewer start-ups generated by funded research at HBCU’s, compared to other universities,” Szafranski said. “This initiative is one way of addressing that disparity –  a practical approach to fostering start-ups.”

The initiative directly supports a major element of A&T strategic plan, Preeminence 2020: Embrace an entrepreneurial spirit that intentionally engages university and community partners to expand economic development and civic engagement.

A&T has spun off two high-tech start-ups. Advaero Technologies, spun off from nanoengineering research, provides high-quality carbon composite materials and components to the aircraft industry. Bioadhesive Alliance is commercializing a technology to replace some of the petroleum content of asphalt with a substance derived from the highly renewable resource of hog manure.

The full list of schools selected for the program:

  • Clark Atlanta University
  • Fayetteville State University
  • Florida A&M University
  • Hampton University
  • Howard University
  • Jackson State University
  • Morehouse College
  • Morgan State University
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
  • Prairie View A&M University
  • Tuskegee University
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • University of the Virgin Islands
  • Virginia State University
  • Xavier University of Louisiana

The collaborative was organized by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, and the United Negro College Fund. 

Partners include Microsoft, Mozilla, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and more than 20 other corporations, educational associations, and federal agencies.