December 7, 2015
South America trip spawns ideas for moving research to marketplace
A Kansas State University employee who visited several South American universities recently says the trip may have opened new opportunities to bring university research closer to the people who can benefit from it.
Ken Williams, director of licensing in the Institute for Commercialization, was part of a delegation led by Provost April Mason to establish partnerships with university officials in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Brazil, many of whom had visited Manhattan in spring 2015.
The Kansas State University group represented many disciplines, most seeking to advance recent partnerships and establish study abroad opportunities.
Williams said he was asked to participate in order to connect with university partners in areas that haven't been explored in previous visits.
"I was excited to see what was happening relative to university technology deployment in other parts of the world, and I was hopeful that I could learn about some of their successful deployment strategies while discussing some of ours," he said.
The Institute for Commercialization, in partnership with the Kansas State University Research Foundation, is the university's arm for moving university science and knowledge toward the marketplace, where the public can benefit from the research.
In many cases, the group works with domestic partners, but Williams noted the Institute for Commercialization is becoming more accustomed to working with international corporate partners. He said there also are opportunities to explore mutually beneficial relationships with international universities.
"Ideally, we try to deploy as much technology locally or nationally as possible, but at the end of the day we want to deploy the technology with a partner who has the greatest chance of getting it into the market, allowing the public to use it," he said. "In some cases the most appropriate partner may not be in the U.S."
Williams said many of the universities he visited are conducting research that is "truly world-class," but methods to get their work into the public marketplace are still new in many South American countries.
"They are still establishing best practices; gaining access to many of the corporate partners that we work with on a fairly regular basis is still somewhat elusive for their technology transfer officers," Williams said.
"However, if we were able to encourage collaborative work between our universities that yielded jointly-developed and commercially-viable intellectual property, we would have the opportunity to not only strengthen our technology portfolio, but also open access points for those technologies in the marketplace. That would benefit our international partners, as well as Kansas State University."
International activity by faculty and staff is a key component in President Kirk Schulz' goal to become a Top 50 public research university by 2025.
Mary Pyle, assistant director for international support in the Office of International Programs, said there are 2,058 international students from more than 100 countries currently attending Kansas State University. The university has 180 exchange agreements and memoranda of understanding with global institutions.