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New program aims to commercialize Cornell technology

Bob Buhrman
Alan Paau
Lou Walcer

Think (scientific) soup to (commercial) nuts: To provide a corporate leg up to technology opportunities and startup companies emerging from research here, the new Cornell Technology Acceleration and Maturation (C-TAM) program is designed to propel promising ideas toward commercial viability.

“C-TAM is a bridge from the status quo of bench research to licensable technologies and investable baby companies,” said Lou Walcer, director of Cornell’s Kevin M. McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences. “In our world of academic research, we move in stages from raw ideas to early technologies to licenses, some of which go to startups that create jobs and contribute to the regional economy. We are hoping C-TAM will help high-potential technologies to attract strategic partners, startup management teams and investors. The concept is to get the ideas ready for ‘prime time’ and to get them there faster – that’s acceleration and maturation.”

C-TAM, which will formally launch in 2014 with funding from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, will be supported by a share of the licensing revenues from funded projects, subsequent loan repayments from the initial project investments, and philanthropic donations from alumni and friends of Cornell technology.

Robert Buhrman, senior vice provost for research, explained that he and other university leaders had been convinced of the need and the value of such a program. “Successful programs at other universities provided compelling evidence of the potential impact of this type of approach for Cornell,” he said.

Alan Paau, executive director and vice provost for technology transfer and economic development, said: “For engineering projects, there will be faster technology transfer, so that we can make them more attractive for industrial development and take products to market faster. For life sciences projects, we can help navigate a heavily regulatory climate. For life science technologies that must walk a development path set by federal agencies, C-TAM can be like jet fuel accelerant to really make them fly.”

The fund will support specific projects based on recommendations of an advisory committee comprising Cornell alumni and supporters with expertise in technology development. Projects will be brought to the committee on a bimonthly basis. The fund does not support basic research but targets high-potential technologies and startups to make them more attractive commercially.

Buhrman believes that such strategic, targeted investments in the maturation of Cornell technologies will prove the value of C-TAM. “With this validation, we will earn greater returns from the commercialization and, hopefully, garner additional support that will allow us to continue to broaden the program,” he said.

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John Carberry