Entrepreneurship Center to streamline military technology commercialization

Topic: Miller College of Business

September 29, 2011

Military innovations will move more quickly from business plan to marketplace under new agreements between Ball State University's nationally ranked Entrepreneurship Center, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) and the Muncie-based Innovation Connector.

Building on the successful first year of Ball State's Military 2 Market (M2M) initiative —allowing students to develop commercial applications and new firms centered on military patents — the university and NSWC Crane have entered into a partnership intermediary agreement (PIA), which supplements an existing educational partnership.

The PIA streamlines the process of M2M students and other entrepreneurs creating new businesses based upon commercializing military technologies. Four start-up firms have been created during 2011 by Ball State students. Several student groups will be attempting to commercialize additional military patents and develop start-ups during the upcoming academic year.

"This new partnership opens new doors, creating more access to the opportunities created by researchers at NSWC Crane," said Michael Goldsby, executive director of the Entrepreneurship Center and the Stoops distinguished professor of entrepreneurship. "At the same time, it provides better name recognition among the federal labs and Department of Defense operations around the world."

Under the agreement, the Entrepreneurship Center is refining a technology transfer program to assist in the commercialization of NSWC Crane patents, creating and sustaining businesses based on those technologies. The center will match small businesses and educational entities with NSWC Crane to transfer military technologies into commercial products.

Start-ups have home

As a result of the expanded partnership between Ball State and NSWC Crane, the Innovation Connector, a small-business incubator, will host start-ups based on military innovations.

The Innovation Connector already works closely with Ball State. It provides aspiring entrepreneurs with start-up assistance and resources to grow their tech-based ideas. At the same time, businesses have opportunities to network, learn from mentors and gain access to resources and education.

"By partnering with NSWC Crane, the Innovation Connector can be a bridge to the Muncie community to further develop our technology transfer programs and to assist in the commercialization of military technology to create and sustain businesses," said Ted Baker, Innovation Connector executive director.

"This partnership agreement with NSWC Crane, as well as our ongoing partnership with Ball State, solidifies our position to assist with new business technology development and provide these businesses with a location to work in. This truly is a win-win-win for all three parties."

Crane a thought leader

John Dement, NSWC Crane technology transfer program manager, said his operation is now considered a thought leader among officials within the Department of Defense and federal laboratory community as a result of Ball State's groundbreaking M2M program.

"There is no doubt that Ball State's Military 2 Market program has been immensely successful," he said. "Not only did we have several impressive commercial applications and businesses created, but it provided students with an incredible learning opportunity. It also highlighted how universities and the military can work together to create business opportunities in a variety of high-tech fields."

Ball State and NSWC began working together in 2010, allowing students to evaluate and develop additional commercialization applications for the Navy's patented inventions while working side by side with Navy researchers, engineers and other personnel.

"Ball State's Entrepreneurship Center will provide a direct outlet to the community and help license Crane patents," added Dement. "At the same time, the center's emerging network of venture capital partners represents opportunities to move early stage technology into the market."

Both Ball State and NSWC officials pointed out that both national and state media paid attention to the first year of the partnership, highlighting the technology transfer and innovative learning opportunities for students. U.S. News & World Report ranked M2M as first among "10 College Classes That Impact the Outside World" in an April 2011 edition. The program was also featured in the August issue of the National Defense Industry Association's business and technology periodical, National Defense Magazine.

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