Virginia Tech continues to grow its support for industry partnerships, technology commercialization, and university-related startups.

This year, Link, License, Launch, which functions as a one-stop shop for companies and those interested in starting new ventures, made strategic hires in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and Northern Virginia and began operations as an integrated team along the complete continuum from discovery to market, according to Associate Vice President for Innovation and Partnerships Brandy Salmon.

Link became operational in 2018 in a partnership between the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation and Advancement to better support and expand industry partnerships, including those around talent and research, working closely with faculty and complementary divisions, such as Office of Sponsored Programs.

Group of people on a stage at a recent meeting on Blockchain technology
Recent successes of Link include partnerships with Block.one, a blockchain technology company. In Nov. 2019, Virginia Tech hosted a blockchain summit. In this photo, Brian Sullivan '93, CNBC news anchor talks with Hester Peirce, a commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Peter Means for Virginia Tech

In 2018, the university took additional steps to integrate the intellectual property asset management and commercialization aspects of License and Launch. Together, Link, License, Launch offers a holistic approach to enable a diverse array of partnerships, actively engage with the market, and build connections to alumni, corporate partners, and federal and state partners.

Successes of Link include partnerships with Boeing and Block.one, a blockchain company whose chief technology officer, Dan Larimer, graduated from Virginia Tech.

In 2019, Link, License, Launch has seen 20 new intellectual property licenses, six tech startups, and 148 invention disclosures from the Tech community. It supported applications for more than 70 patents and three new varieties of plants, with more than 50 patents awarded. The number of utility patents filed represents a 46 percent increase over FY2018, and the number of patents awarded represents a 96 percent increase over FY2018.

“At Virginia Tech, we see successful technology transfer as an imperative that stems from our service-oriented mission as a land-grant university,” Salmon said. “Virginia Tech’s stature as a major driver of economic development is steadily growing. Our research portfolio is diverse, offering stellar opportunities to usher new discoveries into the marketplace to support global good.”

Salmon shared a number of other Link, License, Launch highlights during a presentation to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors on Nov. 17, pointing to Virginia Tech’s strengths in high-demand fields, such as autonomy, digital tech, cybersecurity, satellite technologies, transportation, biomedicine, devices and robotics, and agriculture.

Engaging with the market and growing comprehensive partnerships of shared value is critical to the success of university initiatives, such as the Innovation Campus in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area and Virginia Tech’s leadership role in Virginia’s Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.

Additionally, Salmon highlighted a $1.25 million gift made by Caterpillar to become a founding partner in the Calhoun Discovery Program in the Honors College, which is leading new models of industry engagement in the classroom and scholarships for students interested in working across a wide range of disciplines, including engineering, science, business, design, arts, humanities, and policy.

The Link team partnered with faculty in the computer science department and others in the College of Engineering to support the Blocksburg Summit 2019, which brought blockchain leaders from around the world to Virginia Tech to engage in conversations at the intersection of technology, research, regulation, policy, and economics in commercial enterprises, government, and education. The summit encouraged collaboration between the state and federal governments and the private sector on blockchain technology.

Part of Link, License, Launch’s mission is to create a more open and collaborative approach with faculty, graduate students, alumni, and external stakeholders to grow connections, culture, and competencies around innovation. Jason Piche, who joined the team in 2018, is helping lead Virginia Tech’s License and Launch efforts.

“I came to Virginia Tech because I am really excited to join this fantastic team during such an exciting time in the university’s history” Piche said. “Initiatives such as those underway in Blacksburg, as well as Roanoke and Northern Virginia, offer a new platform for working with industry and transitioning technologies to market. After years working in large, public companies, I am really excited to be working on the other side for a university with a service focus and so much potential to do great things."

Licensing of the fog harp — a simple device that can increase the efficiency of water collection in arid regions — to GreenShift reflects the role that the Link, License, Launch team can play in ensuring technologies with the potential for global impact can make it to market.

The team also strengthened the relationship with medical device maker AngioDynamics to encourage further engagement with the university over the next three years while significantly improving royalty revenue for electroporation technology that is improving cancer treatment options. The team also enabled BEAM Diagnostics to spin out from the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute as a Virginia-based company to improve the lives of individuals suffering from alcohol and substance abuse.

These accomplishments represent only the beginning of Link, License, Launch’s potential as it serves the university’s efforts to benefit the world in the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

— Written by Mason Adams