ISU Technology Transfer
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Economic Development


Meeting Our Economic Development Mission

Our Role in Economic Development
Our Process
Start-up Assistance
Our Successes
SBIR/STTR Assistance

IA Licensees Map Thumbnail


Locations of Iowa Licensees
(click to enlarge)




 Economic development is about employment, employees’ spending and companies’ purchases, and income and revenue generation. The activities associated with Iowa State University’s technology transfer inherently provide opportunities for advancing economic development for the State of Iowa.

The role of OIPTT/ISURF in Iowa State’s economic development mission is to provide a process to appropriately evaluate, protect, and launch the commercialization of innovations generated by Iowa State University researchers. 


Research funding awarded to Iowa State researchers drives Iowa State’s economic development mission. Due to the expertise of these researchers, Iowa State ranks in the top tier of research universities in acquiring federal research funds. Consistently, each year federal funding makes up between 80–90% of all research funding at Iowa State. (For more information, see Sponsored Funding Awards.) 

NotificationThe first step to capitalize on research results is for the researcher to formally report the innovation to OIPTT in a timely manner. Without that report, an appropriate and timely review of the technology will not occur. Valuable protection may be lost if there are delays in reporting. 

This disclosure is the first step in launching a commercialization process that may impact the economic development of the State of Iowa. OIPTT performs a due-diligence review of the ownership, potential protection, and potential commercial value of the innovation.

Capitalizing on the InventionOIPTT’s goals are to find a company that will utilize Iowa State technology to create the biggest impact to society in the most expeditious manner.

Because technologies coming from Iowa State’s labs are reported at a very early stage, they often require extensive commercially focused research and development. Forming a small start-up company may be the best means to take an early innovation through the next level of development that will attract marketplace interest. Thus, after a disclosure, OIPTT’s initial interview with the researcher(s) includes a discussion of the potential for starting a company.

ISURF/OIPTT’s method of commercialization is through a license agreement. The intellectual property rights granted to a company under an exclusive license agreement give the company a proprietary position to the intellectual property protecting the innovation. This provides a competitive advantage for the company.


Many entities on campus assist start-up companies including ISURF/OIPTT.  The Start-up Guide is a good source of information.


OIPTT/ISURF’s direct contribution to Iowa’s economic development is the launching of Iowa State researchers’ new innovations into the Iowa market through licensing activity (see map). The success of actually commercializing the innovation to generate jobs and income is dependent on more than the potential value of the innovation. For example, factors unrelated to the innovation are the competencies of the company’s management team, the ability to raise capital for the company, or, for established companies, management’s focus on the integration of the innovation into the company’s product lines. Consequently, while we might talk about potential sales of our licensees, those numbers are only estimates and several other factors out of our control contribute to the successes and failures of the commercialization process.

Successes from OIPTT/ISURF activity:

  • In the last 10 years, OIPTT/ISURF has licensed over 300 new technologies arising from Iowa State University research. Sales of products developed from our licensed technologies totaled $1.8 billion, $310 million by Iowa-based companies.
  • There were 428 active license and option agreements at the end of fiscal year 2009, of which 264 generated income in that year. 
  • At the end of fiscal year 2009, ISURF had 388 patents in its portfolio.
  • During the last 10 years, ISURF has returned $11.4 million of its licensing income to the academic units on campus and $6.5 million in grants to the Office of the Vice President for Research. These funds help to support research at Iowa State and are used to attract and retain key faculty. In fiscal year 2008, ISURF donated $9.5 million to establish a Research and Economic Opportunities Fund in the Office of the Vice President for Research. 
  • Since July 2005, assistance in proposal preparation for SBIR/STTR grants has been provided to 57 Iowa businesses, including 18 existing or potential faculty start-ups. No fees are charged for this service.
  • ISURF has an annual venture fund of $200,000 that is used to fund further development of innovations in order to add value and make them more attractive to potential licensees. Since fiscal year 1996, when the fund was initiated, ISURF has invested a total of $2.4 million in 111 projects. As of fiscal year 2009, 129 licenses have been executed on these innovations which have generated $28.5 million in income.
  • In the FY 2007 survey conducted by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), ISURF ranked 5th among all U.S. universities in the number of license and option agreements signed to commercialize university technologies and 3rd in the number of licenses and options executed per $10 million of research expenditures.

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