Bringing UTC Research into the Marketplace

Category: Features

By Charlie Reed

There is a channel for moving academic research into the commercial sphere thanks to a burgeoning partnership between UT Chattanooga and the UT Research Foundation in Knoxville.

UTC Commercialization Counselor Jennifer Skjellum connects UTC faculty, who are working on innovative research, with UTRF staff, who provide highly specialized services including assistance with filing patents, copyrights and trademarks, to bring it to the marketplace.

“We’re working together to not only increase awareness about potential commercialization opportunities but also positive outcomes,” said Skjellum, who became the first commercialization counselor at UTC in 2020.

“We’re building the foundation for a culture of innovation at UTC that can lead to licensing and commercializing research,” Skjellum said. “To be able to plug into UTRF and its expertise and resources is a win for UTC, and I am here on this campus as a resource to them. Faculty do not have to enter the ‘Shark Tank’ or even want to start their own company to commercialize their work. Simply convincing researchers that they could and should pursue the commercial aspects of their research can be challenging,” she said.

A key component to success is to get into the pipeline early. It is crucial to protect one’s ideas and that can be time-consuming and costly. This is why working with UTRF is a boon for UTC faculty. The academics who work in the hard sciences tend to be more familiar with and open to the opportunity of turning their work into a product.

From rocket fuel to seat belts to Google, some of the most famous products in history have been developed by scientists at universities.

Yet there are plenty of possibilities for academics working in history, art, music and social sciences to pursue commercialization as well.

“If you’re doing research in say, the School of Education, have you developed a special type of curriculum? Because that’s intellectual property, and that’s protectable; and it’s just as valid as being patentable,” she said.

There are currently about 20 commercialization projects under development in the UTC-UTRF pipeline.

UTRF is a separate entity from UT. It provides assistance and resources to the research activities of faculty, staff and students of the UT System, including campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, the Health Science Center in Memphis, the state-wide Institute of Agriculture and the UT Institute of Public Service.