UNH research has helped hundreds of colleges, high schools and the military reduce sexual and relationship violence. Mathematics professor and entrepreneur Kevin Short developed the first technology that downloaded music to our cell phones. Universities nationwide track their sustainability efforts using a tool created by the UNH Sustainability Institute. And the university holds the license to never-seen photographs of reclusive author J.D. Salinger by famed photographer Lotte Jacobi.
If not for the work of UNHInnovation, these ideas might have lived only in research reports or scholarly journals, their ability to make the world a better place untapped.
“We are always looking at different ways to be helpful and affect the economy and society,” says Marc Sedam, managing director of UNHInnovation (UNHI) and vice provost for innovation and new ventures.
The glue that helps grow and steward UNH-derived ideas, UNHI leverages university resources and experts to maximize the university’s social and economic benefits to the Granite State and beyond. In addition to managing all of UNH’s intellectual property and trademarks, it licenses creative works, supports startup companies based on UNH’s intellectual property (Chaoticom, founded by Kevin Short in 2001, was UNH’s first spin-off) and develops new opportunities for industry partnerships.
Under Sedam, who joined UNHI in 2010, the staff and scope of the department has grown exponentially: It helped found six startups based on UNH intellectual property, forged 182 corporate partnerships, launched the Entrepreneurship Center to foster the next generation of innovative leaders, exceeded $1 million in licensing revenue, and made UNH a top five university in the total number of licenses signed each year since 2015. Recent innovations are making it easier than ever for industry to license UNH intellectual assets, potentially reducing negotiation time from months to minutes.
The goal of a license isn’t to maximize revenue, Sedam is quick to note. “Success comes with finding a way to transfer good ideas that can be brought to market in a meaningful way and impact society.”
UNH’s Prevention Innovations Research Center (PIRC), which creates evidence-based curricula aimed at preventing sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking, exemplifies this licensing strategy. PIRC’s Bringing the Bystander® curriculum has been used by hundreds of colleges and universities and is being adapted and extended for use in the military and high schools. Building on that success, UNHI helped PIRC co-founders Sharyn Potter, professor of sociology, and executive director Jane Stapleton launch Soteria Solutions, an independent nonprofit that is UNH’s first female-founded, research based startup.
“We worked with Sharyn and Jane to create a sustainable business model so their scholarship could be distributed far and wide,” says Sedam. Named after the Greek goddess of safety and preservation, Soteria brings the team’s bystander-focused interventions to schools and workplaces to build safe, respectful environments.
Even as licensing and startups send the university’s research and ideas out into the world, more industry partners than ever are coming onto campus and finding resources to help their businesses thrive and grow.
“Our ultimate ambition is to create more of a presence on campus for these companies on multiple levels,” says Marc Eichenberger, who recently joined UNHI as director of corporate engagement. “The goal is to engage companies who might want to work on research projects with UNH faculty, use equipment to test materials at the University Instrumentation Center or even hire student interns.”
Ideas Worth Sharing
UNHI helps universities nationwide access solutions that were originally developed to address UNH problems.
SIMAP (Sustainability Indicator Management and Analysis Platform)
Carbon and nitrogen footprint tracker used by more than 500 universities
UNHCEMS (Chemical Environmental Management System)
Chemical and hazardous materials inventory manager used by dozens of universities
Student startup from ECenter for low-cost digital textbooks
Student startup from ECenter for online course schedule generation for university students
Toward that end, UNHI hosts biannual industry days, focusing on fields in which regional companies are likely to find synergies with UNH research capacity. In May 2019, more than 140 industry representatives attended an advanced manufacturing day at UNH, hearing two-minute speed pitches from 60 faculty researchers and touring UNH’s Olson Center for Advanced Manufacturing.
The outcomes from these so-called “sandpits” have already proven to be fruitful. Following a food and agriculture day in November, New Hampshire-based MegaFood, a nutritional supply company, forged productive partnerships with faculty researchers and the University Instrumentation Center (see page 26).
As the scope of UNHI grows, so do its plans for the future. Sedam says UNHI is currently proposing the plans for a research foundation and community of innovation — what many know as a research park — that could include privately redeveloping 60 acres of land near the current west edge of campus. Preliminary plans, pending approval by the University System of New Hampshire board of trustees, call for creating one million square feet of retail, residential and research space over the next 15 to 20 years that would positively impact economic development in the region.
“This is one of the final pieces we need to provide a holistic approach to affect the economy and society,” Sedam says. “A research park would help us reach President Dean’s goals of embracing New Hampshire and becoming a top 25 university, while driving $1 billion of economic impact into New Hampshire by the end of the decade.”