Experiential Learning in Technology Commercialization

Many programs in New York State share the philosophy that experiential learning opportunities offer a unique and valuable way for students interested in technology commercialization to learn. Because of the “win-win” nature of these programs, an increasing number of research universities in New York offer some sort of experiential learning opportunity.  The double win is the fact that companies receive free research under the direction of experienced faculty, and students interested in technology commercialization receive the opportunity to gain real world experience, thereby increasing their suitability for employment in high-tech areas.

At the Technology Commercialization Research Center at Syracuse University College of Law, the philosophy has long been held that intellectual property law is but one leg of the support structure necessary to commercialize a new technology. In completing research projects for actual companies or inventors, students acquire real life experience managing the myriad of issues involved in technology commercialization.  This Technology Commercialization Clinic concept was enthusiastically received such that its originator, Ted Hagelin, sought and received funding to assist the establishment of similar clinics in other research universities.

Technology Commercialization Clinic Network of some of these TCC’s has developed to share information, best practices and resources regarding educational curricula, selection of projects, and organization of research for the companies or inventors seeking research relevant to a potential commercialization project. The network is open to any interested New York State graduate educational program, and the research reports are open to any New York State research center, company or inventor – with priority given to NYSTAR sponsored centers. Current programs and universities are: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships  at SUNY Binghamton, The Shipley Center for Innovation at Clarkson, the College of Business Administration at Niagara University, Saunders College of Business at RIT, theCenter for Biotechnology at SUNY Stony Brook and the College of Law  at Syracuse University.

One of the highlights of the Building Human Capital to Drive New York’s Innovation Economy was presentations from universities with such unique programs. An especially innovative, emerging program is Cornell NYC Tech, profiled in a separate article in this newsletter. Other innovative programs presented at the conference were:

The University of Rochester has developed a Medical Technology Innovation Masters Program.    Students work with medical practitioners to observe their practice and identify “pain” or problem areas in need of a solution. In this way, they better create innovative device solutions for focused clinical problems. They do this through a cross-disciplinary collaboration with the college of medicine, practitioners, hospital personnel, engineers and others. The program seeks to improve patient care and outcomes while promoting a unique education in both clinical care and bioengineering design.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offers a Master of Science in Technology Commercialization and Entrepreneurship, an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Lally School of Management, 11 academic departments at Rensselaer, and Albany Law School.   The program is founded on the idea that: “Successful commercialization of technology requires not only technical understanding, but also a basic foundation in management that covers bringing the product to market by developing a business plan, obtaining funding, staffing and managing the enterprise, and understanding how to value and protect intellectual property.” The goal is to prepare a new generation of technology entrepreneurs who have an advanced understanding of technology, a fundamental understanding of commercial functions and analytics, and practical experience in the process of innovation and technological commercialization.

Syracuse University has incorporated entrepreneurial learning into many of its schools – The Kauffman Initiative on Entrepreneurship at the School of Information Studies, the Falcone Center for Entrepreneurship at the Whitman School of Management, Maxwell School of Public Policy, and the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the Newhouse School, and the Center for Advanced Technology at the L.C. Smith School of Engineering.

At Clarkson University, The Shipley Center for Innovation  accelerates the commercialization of discovery-driven Clarkson innovations into the marketplace. The Center fosters and accelerates the exchange of ideas between the various schools on campus and industry to prepare and educate the faculty and students for the entrepreneurial workplace.  As a center of technology, engineering, applied science and education, Clarkson University is well suited to reach these objectives.

Advocates for experiential learning cite the opportunities for both students and technology commercialization that are promoted through this learning style.  New York State is well positioned to cite its ability to meet the demand for human capital to its list of competitive advantages.