The Early Years
The Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization, or KSU-IC, was originally founded in 1994 under the name of Mid-America Commercialization Corporation, or MACC, a not-for-profit corporation to facilitate the commercialization of technologies for regional economic and social benefits. MACC was formed as a true private-public sector partnership between two levels: academia and the business community. More specifically, the state of Kansas via the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation or KTEC, Kansas State University, the city of Manhattan and the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. KTEC and others recognized that a concerted effort between the private and public sectors was needed to create an environment to enable Kansas to compete in today's technologically driven and rapidly changing world.
The initial corporate organization encompassed a structure of two affiliated for-profit companies around a core 501(c)3 not-for-profit company. In MACC’s case, the affiliates were: Mid-America Technology Management Inc., or MTM, a management services company and wholly owned subsidiary of MACC, now KSU-IC; and Manhattan Holdings LLC, or MHL, a seed investment fund organized as a Kansas limited liability company and managed by MTM. MTM was created to deliver the full range of both not-for-profit and for-profit management services needed by both MACC and its client companies.
In 1995, through an agreement with the Kansas State University Research Foundation, or KSURF, MACC began to serve as the licensing agent for technologies derived from research at Kansas State University, where MACC markets and negotiates the license agreements for K-State technologies held by KSURF on behalf of the university. MACC’s mission and infrastructure also introduced the option of licensing K-State technologies to new local companies founded specifically to commercialize these technologies.
MACC established its first technology spin-out company from K-State in 1995. Nanoscale Materials was created to commercially develop and market nanotechnologies. By 2008, MACC had established a total of 16 start-up companies since its original formation, with specialties ranging from calcium-enriched beverage products to biodegradable planting pots.
This same year, MACC assumed responsibility for the operations of a previously existing not-for-profit business incubator, the Kansas Entrepreneurial Center, or KEC. Upon amalgamation with MACC, KEC was refocused on delivering incubation facilities and administrative support principally for new technology-based, start-up companies with high growth potential. KEC also traditionally housed other key elements of the local supportive infrastructure, including KSURF and MACC itself. In late 1996 the city of Manhattan purchased an existing building specifically for use by KEC as a technology business incubator. In 2007 the city invested in the current KSUIC location, also referred to as the Manhattan/K-State Innovation Center.
In late 1998, with additional support from KTEC and K-State, MACC initiated a Technology Acquisition, Development and Commercialization — TADAC — program that now amounts to more than 1,000 patents. The TADAC program was developed to test the hypothesis that technology donations can be used to strengthen national competitiveness by unlocking dormant corporate technologies and leveraging them with the host of resources present in and available to nonprofit and public sector organizations. U.S. corporations hold more than 20 times the number of patents collectively held by all the universities, research institutions and federal laboratories in America, but commercially use only about 6 percent of the technologies held within their patent portfolios. In other words, dormant corporate technologies represent an immense reservoir of untapped potential wealth for the nation. For sponsors such as K-State and KTEC, this means the potential existed for a dramatic expansion of the technology base upon which the institutions can build to meet their respective missions.
Transition and Today
In 2004, MACC’s name was changed to the National Institute for Strategic Technology Acquisition and Commercialization, or NISTAC, as a signal that the reach of MACC’s programs was being broadened beyond Kansas to include regions throughout the nation. This expansion was primarily done through the creation of the national network of cooperating not-for-profit entities with complementary missions. Such entities include universities, research institutions and regional economic development organizations.
NISTAC, now KSU-IC, was named as the commercialization partner for the new K-State Olathe campus in Greater Kansas City in 2007. This represents a tremendous opportunity over time for KSU-IC, as K-State Olathe grows and establishes private sector and institutional partnerships focused on innovation. Also in 2007, NISTAC/KSU-IC partnered with K-State, the Kansas State University Foundation, KSURF, the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, and the city of Manhattan to form a new program to support economic development in the region. Knowledge Based Economic Development, or KBED, was created to establish and actively support a thriving entrepreneurial environment to attract, grow, and retain knowledge-based businesses to create wealth and other benefits for the region and the partners.
In 2010, Kansas State University announced its strategic plan of being recognized as a top 50 public research university by 2025. With the longstanding relationship and successes of the two, top leadership at KSU recognized NISTAC was critical to achieving this goal. This brought about the reorganization of NISTAC’s corporate structure and name change to the Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization. The institute now has two members, Kansas State University and the Kansas Department of Commerce, with the university as the controlling member.
Overall, KSU-IC's initial 13 years, from 1995 through 2008, may be viewed as formative and momentum building, with measurable, meaningful results achieved. Progress to date has been encouraging and provides a basis to believe that KSU-IC will deliver significant contributions toward economic prosperity in Manhattan, as well as other regions throughout Kansas and the nation as it matures during the next 10 years.