Tech Launches New Commercialization Initiative

Investor & entrepreneur Stephen Fleming to be chief commercialization officer

Georgia Tech has launched an aggressive new commercialization initiative designed to streamline the handling of intellectual property, accelerate the licensing of technology and make the Institute's resources more readily accessible to business and industry.

The new initiative, to be known as Georgia Tech Commercialization Services, will also expand the transfer of technology to Georgia companies while providing stronger marketing and management for Georgia Tech's rapidly growing and increasingly specialized intellectual property portfolio.

Stephen Fleming, a successful Atlanta investor and entrepreneur, will head up the new unit as chief commercialization officer. A Georgia Tech graduate with private-sector experience at AT&T Bell Laboratories and Northern Telecom, Fleming has been a partner in two Atlanta-based venture capital firms, and has managed investments in more than 20 start-up companies.

"Better commercializing the technological innovations we develop will enable Georgia Tech to have a larger impact on the local, state and national economies," said Provost Jean-Lou Chameau. "To accommodate continued growth in our intellectual property portfolio, we need a more effective commercialization process, one that is worthy of the kind of institution we aspire to be."

Over the past decade, Georgia Tech's research program has more than doubled in size and the institution has set records for the number of patents filed, technologies licensed and start-up companies formed. The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia Tech's science and technology incubator, has won broad recognition for helping build the state's technology community through support of start-up companies.

As impressive as these accomplishments are, however, Georgia Tech wants to do more to put its powerful innovation engine to work for the local, state and national communities, said Wayne Hodges, Vice Provost for Economic Development and Technology Ventures.

"Our new commercialization initiative will speed the transfer of technology from Georgia Tech and make it easier for outsiders - including entrepreneurs and potential corporate partners - to work with us," Hodges said. "Moving more technology out into the community will lead to the formation of more start-up companies, create new high-paying jobs and help revitalize existing enterprises. By creating a more efficient and effective process, we will maximize the Institute's return to its stakeholders."

According to Hodges, the new initiative will:

* Create a clear process for the commercialization of technology developed by faculty members and students, and facilitate collaboration with experienced entrepreneurs in launching new companies;

* Provide a consistent set of expectations for business and industry partners who wish to commercialize Georgia Tech research, setting realistic goals for license terms and the time required for completing the licensing process;

* Help Georgia companies develop the new products and processes they need to compete in world markets by transferring technology innovations developed at Georgia Tech and partner organizations, and

* Set a new standard for technology commercialization, helping Georgia Tech meet its goal of defining the technological university of the 21st century.

"For Georgia Tech faculty members, the new organization will mean more rapid decisions about the patenting of research discoveries, more aggressive efforts to market intellectual property, and consistent terms - based on industry standards and established templates - for licensing technology to startup companies," said Jilda Garton, associate vice provost for research and general manager of the Georgia Tech Research Corporation. "We will help Georgia Tech faculty bring their innovations to the public through a better and faster process."

As chief commercialization officer, Fleming will be responsible for the complete commercialization process, including evaluation of invention disclosures, marketing of Georgia Tech intellectual property, and assistance to faculty members interested in forming start-up companies. The Georgia Tech Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) will continue to serve faculty members as the initial point of contact for invention disclosures and other activities involved in protecting intellectual property.

Changes and enhancements in Georgia Tech's new Commercialization Services organization will include:

* An enhanced evaluation process that will accelerate patenting and licensing decisions based on real-world information about commercialization opportunities;

* A new business development structure that will manage and aggressively market Georgia Tech's intellectual property portfolio;

* An educational initiative that will provide information about the commercialization process to help faculty members make good decisions about protecting and licensing the technology they develop, and

* Additional resources to accommodate the increasing number of invention disclosures and growing interest in licensing Georgia Tech intellectual property.

"Our intention is to streamline and accelerate the disclosure, patenting and licensing process while making it simpler and more straightforward for faculty members," explained Charles Liotta, Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies. To ensure that the new initiative meets real-world needs, it will rely heavily on guidance from advisory boards composed of Georgia Tech officials and outside stakeholders, he added.

A 1983 summa cum laude graduate of Georgia Tech, Fleming began his career with AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1979 while still a student. After graduation, he became a field engineer in Northern Telecom's (Nortel) optical cable division. In the early 1990s, Fleming became Nortel's "broadband evangelist," responsible for developing the first standards-based DSL modem and one of the first successful cable modems in the United States.

In 1995, he became a general partner at Atlanta-based venture capital firm Alliance Technology Ventures, managing 18 investments totaling more than $64 million. Investments made in companies based on Georgia Tech research included:

* Astracom (acquired by Ciena),
* Digital Furnace (acquired by Broadcom),
* RF Solutions (acquired by Anadigics),
* Synchrologic (acquired by Pumatech, now Intellisync), and
* Verifiber (still private).

During 2002 and 2003, Fleming served as an advisor to the ATDC before joining venture capital firm EGL Ventures as that company's third general partner.

"With a strong background that includes large companies, venture capital investing and start-up firms, Stephen has an ideal mix of experience to lead this new initiative," Hodges said. "Beyond his background, he also has deep roots in the Atlanta community and Georgia Tech."

According to a recent survey by the Association of University Technology Managers, Georgia Tech ranks first among U.S. universities in the rate of technology licenses granted to start-up companies. Overall for fiscal year 2004, Georgia Tech licensed technology to 15 start-up companies, received 35 patents, filed 277 invention disclosures and brought in $2.3 million in revenue.