Tick, tack, click is the sound of librarian Connie Stovall’s computer keys as she investigates and analyzes data from her home office. Hair neatly tucked behind her ear and blue eyes magnified behind her vintage-rimmed glasses, Stovall concentrates on her new role as assistant director of strategic research and industry intelligence analyst with the University Libraries at Virginia Tech investigating potential connections between the university and industry partners. 

Some may say Stovall’s skillset, education, and training are somewhat unusual. She is a University Libraries librarian and holds degrees in the humanities, business, and social sciences. That combination of knowledge has helped her shape and execute a new role at Virginia Tech supporting efforts by LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH

LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH was founded a little over two years ago to help industry partnerships grow and flourish and provide the pathway and connections for discoveries made at Virginia Tech to deliver economic and human impact. In other words, their team ensures that breakthroughs break through.

Stovall’s position in the University Libraries started out as a few side projects after a conversation between University Libraries Dean Tyler Walters and Brandy Salmon, associate vice president for innovation and partnerships and managing director for the new Innovation Campus. Stovall’s work and expertise quickly evolved as she developed a transformational role as an industry intelligence analyst. 

“This particular role allows me to utilize a wider set of my skills and provide data-driven analysis for the team. The work of LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH is complex and multifaceted. It takes a full range of skills, from soft skills to technical competencies. I enjoy bringing strategic insight to their efforts, by, for example, arming the team with data, models, market realities, technical insight, and more. It helps this team operate as a strategic consultancy within Virginia Tech,” said Stovall. 

Stovall’s vast experience with academic resources and tools can be traced back to her librarian career path. But now she moves beyond pointing to or teaching information resources, and instead, finds and presents insights. 

“Outside of medical and corporate libraries, the vast majority of librarians spend a great deal of time evaluating and sourcing information for others and teaching patrons how to use resources,” said Stovall. “What we haven’t done as much until more recent years is take the additional step to synthesize that information or perform data analysis and provide insight to those involved in building partnerships and very few have been fully embedded in tech transfer and business development units.”

Stovall uses extensions of library resources to compile, analyze, and communicate data-driven analysis for LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH team members and other campus administrators. She also incorporates data analysis tools like Tableau, VosViewer, or In-Spire to enhance analytical communications. 

“With tools like In-Spire, a textual visualization tool, we can ingest scholarly abstracts, news, and reports from companies and national labs and patents into one place and analyze the text to understand where Virginia Tech fits in regarding a particular research area,” explained Stovall. “We can use a tool like Scival to help us understand more specifically Virginia Tech’s role and strengths in big growth areas like 5G, autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity, or artificial intelligence (AI), and who the other major players are outside Virginia Tech. These tools can help us better understand market needs in those areas, as well.”

“It is so important to me to help shine more light on the broad range of services and capabilities of academic librarians,” said Stovall. “Our profession suffers from a bit of a stereotype when it comes to our roles, and I want to help convey the transformative roles and services developing in our field.”

Stovall’s work has provided campus partners the information they need to move their missions forward.

“Connie’s work was very helpful in informing our conversations at the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI),” said Sarah Hayes, CCI portfolio director, Office of the Executive Director. “As we build toward strategic programs and partnerships, we have leaned on Connie to help us understand leading models, gain a sense of what other sorts of partnerships companies are building toward, and staying abreast of trends. Doing our homework has helped us kick start our partnership discussions and create terrific momentum for CCI in building a 5G testbed.”

LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH supports all aspects of corporate partnerships and consists of three components that uniquely complement each other. LINK, The Center for Advancing Industry Partnerships, focuses on supporting, developing, and maintaining strategic partnerships between Virginia Tech researchers and industry. LICENSE, The Center for Technology Commercialization, works in concert with Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties to provide a path to market for Virginia Tech inventors, including technology and market assessment, and navigation through the patenting and license process. LAUNCH, The Center for New Ventures, supports start-ups for those inventors. 

“There are so many reasons I love working with the LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH team,” said Stovall. “They are a positive, service-oriented group intent on making a difference. While my role is really a small one in the scheme of things, I like knowing that I’m supporting their goals and, in so doing, I am not just impacting Virginia Tech but the goals of the commonwealth, particularly with innovation, job creation, and developing tech-talent pipelines. 

Recently, with LICENSE & LAUNCH, Stovall is helping to analyze technology and corresponding markets and creating processes and insight for invention disclosure assessments. Her role includes searching patent databases for prior art, interviewing Virginia Tech’s inventors, identifying outside experts to interview, and assessing markets and customers to better understand applications and prospective partners.

Goals, success, and the Innovation Campus

Stovall’s work is collaborative and her reach is far. “I’ve worked with others across campus to compile and analyze what’s happening across the country and globally in areas like 5G or quantum research centers and helped others understand the competitive landscape in those areas,” said Stovall. “This kind of competitive intelligence and strategic research helps Virginia Tech better position and market its strengths in those areas.”

Stovall’s collaborations with strategic partners aid in accomplishing her goals while also helping other Virginia Tech departments. 

“Working with Connie has been great," said Debbie Carlier, director of strategic initiatives and engagement, research, and graduate studies, College of Engineering. "Her analysis helped me to understand more deeply the interdisciplinary nature of quantum research and determine that Virginia Tech with its QIST (quantum information science and technology) strengths in both basic and applied research areas could be a leader in this field.

"The QIST collaborative effort between the College of Engineering and College of Science began more than a year ago because faculty and leadership could see the opportunity we had to bridge basic and applied research work to help meet the workforce demands predicted by industry experts to explode within the next five to 10 years. Mining for good information on research topics can be a daunting task. Connie’s work can help you get to the information you need for your research and educational initiative.” 

Stovall has built invaluable partnerships throughout Virginia Tech and beyond.

“Connie’s support has been incredibly helpful - from her work on the CCI Southwest Virginia node application to informing us on the scope of quantum information science and technology research occurring in the state. As we plan researcher workshops, we will revisit the resources Connie provided to ensure that we harness the full capability in the Commonwealth,” said Gretchen Mathews, director, Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Southwest Virginia, and professor, Department of Mathematics.

“One of my goals is to help enhance Virginia Tech’s reputation,” said Stovall. “Catalyzing industry partnerships and growing the economy for the commonwealth is key to that.”

These important library services help deliver on the goals of Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus and are available now to anyone who will be working there. Stovall has already provided services related to the Innovation Campus and is working with Kristie Caddick, the Innovation Campus project manager, researching strategic growth areas. 

University Libraries strives to help Virginia Tech make an economic and human impact. Many academic librarians are already perfectly suited to providing competitive intelligence and analysis to help campus leaders and researchers plan more strategically. Stovall has paved the way for others in the field.

Written by Elise Monsour Puckett