When Robert Turner started Tennessee State University’s tech transfer office, he understood that capital, talent, and strategic partnerships would be key to scaling operations.
“The first thing we had to address was funding,” Turner, who is TSU’s Director of Technology Transfer and Innovation, said. “Once a budget was in place, we shifted our focus to programs and partnerships. Yet our most critical issue was staff. That’s the gap that the Tennessee Technology Advancement Consortium helped to fill.”
The Tennessee Technology Advancement Consortium is a pilot project working to provide commercialization and technology transfer support for The University of Memphis, Tennessee State University and Tennessee Tech University.
The new collaboration aims to foster innovation, democratize access to commercialization support for novel technologies, and streamline commercialization of university-based innovations across Tennessee.
Turner has hired two staff members to support the university’s entrepreneurial pipeline and tech transfer marketing efforts, which TTAC has been able to back.
TTAC helps create an easier, streamlined process for anyone at TSU who has an invention or novel technology.
“We mapped out the team and skillset needed to accelerate an invention from the lab to the market and realized the time needed to fill these roles,” he said. “TTAC has helped a lot with strengthening the entire technology transfer process and achieving operational scale very quickly, so it’s really seamless for our office and our faculty at Tennessee State University.”
TSU has prioritized commercialization and innovation efforts in past years as part of the university’s R2 to R1 initiative through the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education,
In February, the school will launch its first entrepreneurial training cohort, as part of the Mid-South Innovation Corps, which Tennessee State University is utilizing as an educational training platform to support faculty innovators, after sharing their invention disclosures, to unlock additional commercialization support resources.
“We are sourcing the next batch of inventions from these teams,” Turner said.
The goal is to build up the pipeline of inventions and disclosures, as well as to get more SBIR/STTR grants submitted, Turner said.
Ultimately, more invention disclosures and commercialization activity means an economic boost for the entire state, he said.
“The ultimate return on investment is these scientific discoveries turning into innovations and turning into products and going back into society,” Turner said. “These things help to create new companies, new jobs in the region and they bring in future opportunities for research, collaborative innovation and entrepreneurship.”