The roots of research

Dr. Jim Solti, U.S. Air Force Academy chief scientist (U.S. Air Force photo)

Dr. Jim Solti, U.S. Air Force Academy chief scientist (U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Two patent licensing agreements, eight invention disclosures and one partnership intermediary agreement. This represents the roots of the Office of Research's technology transfer program - roots serving as a strong foundation for larger victories in the future.

The Office of Research here has always moved innovations and inventions outside our gates, freely giving the fruits of our success to the Air Force, the Defense Department and private industry.

The difference is now we will build on past success to create a future with a deliberate approach to technology transfer, one still benefiting the Air Force and creating a solid fiscal foundation for Academy researchers. We know this is possible because it's already been done.

A project in the Academy's Laser and Optics Research Center, based on a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, led to a license with Optical Engines, a local company using Academy research. In turn, the license agreement royalties benefit the LORC to pursue further research opportunities.

Another process we've developed is licensed by Notre Dame University to further develop aerodynamic flow control.

Invention disclosures are the first step to licensing agreements and researchers are eager to take advantage of these disclosures and patents. In the past year, Academy researchers reported eight different inventions ranging from the esoteric - the aeronautics Department's new wind-flow barrier simulating turbulence in a wind tunnel, to the practical - patent-pending airborne bird-strike technology promising to make aviation safer for all aircraft.

Technology transfer at the Academy is more than gadgets and widgets created in the labs; our biggest success comes from an agreement with McGraw-Hill Education, an educational publisher preserving the nation's space technology breakthroughs in textbooks bringing in thousands of dollars in royalties every year to the Astronautics Department.

These successes create deep roots for future agreements, book deals, patents and disclosures. It will take time and effort, but we already know we can be successful.

We're growing our technology transfer program while understanding new projects require the care and attention of fine minds in and outside the Academy and that's where the final number comes in: the partnership intermediary agreement.

This agreement, announced last week, partners the Academy with the local Colorado Springs Technology Incubator. This nonprofit assists early-stage startups and will conduct a technology audit here to determine which products are ready for the next steps. They'll market these products, creating new branches of technology transfer into the local community and Colorado.

We plan to seek other partners as well, as we have the responsibility and intent to seek national-level partners to spread Academy research beyond the local community.

As our current partners attest, working with the Academy is a collaboration built on similar goals of benefiting the nation's business base, the Air Force and the DOD. Thanks to state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, an internationally-renowned faculty and the brightest undergraduates in the nation, technology developed at the Academy can transform the world.

Some future game changers include products researched at the Center of Innovation to change how computer viruses are tracked and conquered, while other products will make computers safer from the very microchips inside them, making data exchanges safe from hackers.

For six decades, Academy researchers built the healthy roots, the basic research, for the program to be successful. Now it's time to harvest the fruits of our labor to develop a robust technology transfer program to create successful ventures during the next six decades.