TI:GER Trains Graduate Students to Work Together to Transfer More Technology to Marketplace

Unique Cross-Campus Collaboration Funded by $2.9 Million NSF IGERT Grant

New discoveries and technologies are discovered in labs all the time, but most never develop real world application. To combat this trend, a new graduate program at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University brings Ph.D. students in Science and Engineering together with Georgia Tech M.B.A. students and Emory law students to participate in a curriculum on the technical, legal, and business issues involved with moving fundamental research to the marketplace. Central to the program, named "Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results (TI:GER)," are team projects in which students consider potential market applications of the Ph.D. students' research.

"TI:GER is an innovative program designed to pair technologically savvy engineers and scientists with bright business and law students so that all three groups will be better equipped to deal with the challenges of commercializing technology," said G. Wayne Clough, president, Georgia Institute of Technology. "The technology transfer process is complex and takes the knowledge and skill sets of technologists, and business and legal experts to be successful."

"TI:GER is the only program that brings together law, economics, management, and science and engineering graduate students in a research environment to consider social and economic consequences of research," says the program's creator Dr. Marie Thursby, professor of strategic management and Hal and John Smith Chair in Entrepreneurship in the DuPree College of Management at Georgia Tech. "Another unique feature of the program is that economic, regulatory, and legal mechanisms are considered before the research is conducted, so that students are able to take the potental impact on society into account in determining the direction of their research."

TI:GER is funded by a prestigious $2.9 million National Science Foundation's Integrative Graduate Education in Research Training (NSF-IGERT) grant, designed to provide all of the students with the skills and multidisciplinary perspective needed to succeed in innovation-related careers, as well as promote engineering thesis research with both technical merit and market relevance. TI:GER is one of 21 IGERT awards that NSF is making in 2003.

Thursby has designed and directed three major multidisciplinary programs for research and curriculumn development while at Purdue University including the Technology Tranfer Initiative, Innovation Realization Lab, and Purdue's Center for International Business Education and Research.

TI:GER involves the collaboration of faculty from the Georgia Tech DuPree College of Management, the joint Georgia Tech/Emory Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Tech/Emory Center for Engineering of Living Tissues, Manufacturing Research Center, Microelectronics Research Center, Microelectromechanical Systems, and Packaging Research Center, the Emory Law School, and Emory Economics Department.

"In order for patent examiners and patent lawyers to make good decisions, it has become increasingly more important for them to understand the technical and business issues," said George Shepherd, professor, Emory Law School and co-principal investigator. "TI:GER exposes the Emory Law students to a high-tech lab environment for resolving typical start-up legal issues and an opportunity to see what an R&D environment is like."

Currently, 24 graduate students working in four teams are enrolled in TI:GER. All the students take a series of core courses together including Innovation Fundamentals, and also complete other complementary courses depending on their degree program. The current Georgia Tech doctoral students come from mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, industrial engineering and chemistry.

IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers with the multidisciplinary backgrounds and the technical, professional, and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future. The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. In the fifth year of the program, awards are being made to twenty-one institutions for programs that collectively span the areas of science and engineering supported by NSF.