UB seeking innovation in newly hired faculty

March 8, 2013 Updated Mar 8, 2013 at 9:24 AM EDT

By Dan Miner, Business First

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UB seeking innovation in newly hired faculty

March 8, 2013 Updated Mar 8, 2013 at 9:24 AM EDT

Building new facilities. Hiring talented researchers. Organizational focus.

There's no doubt the University at Buffalo has placed an increasing emphasis on research and innovation in recent years.

In 2001, UB's Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) reported about 45 New Technology Disclosures - a legal document that sets the date of an invention.

That number has since doubled, hovering at about 100 per year, with 91 in 2012.

What does it mean? UB's Dr. Robert Genco and Tim Dee said the university has increased its focus on hiring faculty who are also energetic researchers and innovators. UB is planning on hiring more than 200 tenure-track faculty members in the next few years.

They say STOR personnel are active in the university's academic departments, keeping an eye on what's going on at UB and also the broader trends in innovation. UB has focused on providing inventors with gap funds so they can develop new ideas. The university's "Innovation Hub" includes an entrepreneur-in-residence program. That program has two projects right now geared toward advancing technology and building the local economy.

"Outreach, gap funding, hiring these inventor types - this is very important to developing an entrepreneurial culture here at UB," said Genco, UB vice provost and director of the STOR office.

The New Technology Disclosures start a process that can take different tracks depending on the invention, according to Dee.

Some innovations end up as provisional patent applications - the first step to a full patent application. UB's provisional patent numbers fluctuate year to year but have generally increased over the past decade, with 35 in 2003 compared to 49 in 2012.

That's not all. Total research spending by UB and its affiliates increased from $240 million in 2003 to $360 million in 2012. That number reflects spending at other institutions, such as Roswell Park Cancer Institute, but UB is a large percentage of the annual funding.

"There are a number of initiatives that the university and our office has directed toward this effort in entrepreneurism," said Dee, associate director for intellectual property and commercialization manager for chemical and life sciences at UB.

The focus on research and innovation has included major construction efforts, such as the Clinical and Translation Research Center, in partnership with Kaleida Health, on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The UB 2020 plans, currently being finalized, call for it to become a leading academic research center. The university's Regional Institute did a recent study that found UB has incubated or generated 180 new companies over the past 10 years, with about 140 of those still active, Genco said.

He predicted that the university's contributions to research, innovation and technology will become even more visible in the near future. He said he sees the region's entrepreneurial ecosystem gaining steam.

"We think we're seeing that entrepreneurial culture develop here in Buffalo," he said.

"We think this will start taking off soon as some of these technologies come to maturation."