Some of Kentucky’s most powerful companies — those able to revolutionize industries or launch entirely new ones — may currently occupy the minds of future innovators and hinge on university research yet to be developed.
Whether in agritech, pharmaceutical sciences, fintech, geotech, biotech, medical devices or other fields, Kentucky’s higher-education institutions and the state’s own residents hold real potential. A new public-private partnership was created to unite Kentucky’s entrepreneurial resources and its public universities to help innovators turn their ideas into reality.
Kentucky Commercialization Ventures (KCV) leverages state funding to support all of Kentucky’s public institutions in commercializing technology throughout the state. With support from KY Innovation, Kentucky’s office for entrepreneurship and innovation, the commonwealth is investing nearly $1.16 million in creating a statewide network. The collaborative partnership includes the Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. (KSTC), the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and all of Kentucky’s public higher education institutions.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced the initiative in late July, saying Kentucky must position itself for new and long-term economic success post-Covid-19.
“While we are dealing with the present, we want to make sure we’re planning for the future. I want us to be a better, more prosperous Kentucky, one where we are aimed at the future,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons that agritech is so important to us. It’s about being a leader in the economies of the future and not chasing the jobs of the past.”
KCV’s services are available to students, staff and faculty at Kentucky’s public universities – UK, UofL, Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, Northern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University, Morehead State University and Murray State University – as well as the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS).
Through KCV, innovators across the state can tap into resources such as licensing and intellectual property (IP) protection expertise, industry contacts and market evaluation.
Allen Morris, executive director of the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center, said KCV also will allow innovators to connect with individuals experienced in spinning off startups from universities and licensing to industry.
“We have a lot of earned experience and success in that area,” Morris said. “With KCV, we want to use all of that experience and expertise to help our sister institutions across the state launch innovative startups, collaborate with industry and, ultimately, get their technologies to market.”
The partnership allows UK and UofL, the state’s two R1 research institutions, to extend expertise from their existing tech transfer offices to institutions across the state, which in turn offer their own resources in a variety of fields.
Ian McClure, executive director of UK’s Office of Technology Commercialization, said KCV creates an opportunity for other universities to establish a pipeline for innovative talent and build on recent successes at the state’s top research institutions.
“This is not going to be an overnight thing, but we want to help build the culture at all of these institutions to think more proactively about entrepreneurial activity, about commercialization, about industry engagement,” McClure said, adding that the combined strength of each university’s specialized expertise could create a resource network unparalleled in the U.S.
“The sum of all parts makes us better here. For example, Northern Kentucky University has a burgeoning expertise in informatics. Informatics is data science, data analytics, and it’s key to all kinds of tech fields. We should all be partnering with Northern Kentucky’s College of Informatics. At Murray State, they’ve got a hemp research institute, and they should be brought in on anything that is related to crop science, hemp and the future of that product and industry. The KCV team is going to help be a concierge for those opportunities.”
The partnership also places the commonwealth in a stronger position to compete for federal funding. This was evident when the National Institutes of Health awarded UK and UofL the Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) late last year. The grant will help advance innovative biomedical research across the commonwealth. Individual public institutions can leverage the consortium to increase their own likelihood of winning grants.
Overall KCV will improve Kentucky’s tech-based ecosystem and help sustain it for the long term.