Office of Innovation and Commercialization

Innovators

UNCW's faculty are innovative. Certain types of innovations, such as patentable technologies and "non-patentable IP" (NPIP, such as software, integrated IT solutions, databases, research by-products) need to go through a formal process of disclosure and examination. Other types of innovative activity may not. Every faculty member should become familiar with these policies (see IP Policies). Parallel to the formal IP process is UNCW's desire to encourage, support, and facilitate all innovative and commercial ideas from its faculty.

The OIC is an integrated, "one-stop shopping" office with a specific mission to also assist faculty entrepreneurs and innovators to transition from "ideation" to "scalability" to "commercialization." We want to help.

The OIC has a number of resources it can provide faculty innovators and entrepreneurs. These resources include direct funding, student assistance, course buyouts, travel, mentoring, and business development. Through the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) incubator space, networking and other resources are also available.

When to Disclose

If you have a new invention that you want to report, please fill out the disclosure form and submit it to our office. Note: Only questions 1-6 are required for the initial disclosure. The other information can be submitted later. 

After we have received it and assigned it to the appropriate technical staff member, you will be contacted. If you have other questions, please contact the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, email: oic@uncw.edu, phone: 910-962-7630.

In general, the process begins with the completion of the appropriate disclosure forms. In addition to addressing some specific technical and economic assessments of the technology in question, you will also need to secure signatures from your dean (if a student, you will need your research managing faculty member's signature as well).

After you submit your completed disclosure form regarding your technology to our office, the OIC research manager handling your case will schedule an assessment review session with you.

It is very important at this stage to conduct a search for other material which is the same, or most similar, to your invention. This is an important early step in assessing how broad, if any, the available patent protection for your invention would be. Once this information is obtained, the OIC Technology manager will schedule a review to discuss the potential patenting and licensing of your invention.

Commercialization Process for Faculty

While disclosure "triggers" a formal review process of the technology and how to protect it, at the same time faculty ideas that have commercial potential (regardless of IP protection issues) can be supported by UNCW in other ways.

Faculty can make a formal application & presentation (see below) to the UNCW IP Committee requesting support. The UNCW IP Committee has a variety of resources that they can provide (such as funding, mentoring, course releases, graduate student support, business development, etc.), The IP Committee also has the expertise in suggesting the best way to commercialize this knowledge depending on the form of IP protection, how scalable the business is, market potential, and the start-up resource requirements.

As development continues of the innovation, technology or business idea, "scaling up" the business is the next step. "Scaling up" means developing the mechanisms so the technology or business idea has real commercial potential. At UNCW "scaling up" involves a Lean Entrepreneurship process (see below) of using the Business Canvas, doing market testing and research, listening to potential customers, developing a prototype to demonstrate, redesigning your product based upon market feedback, and starting to think about larger scale financing. This process may also involve forming a LLC or Corporation if the "spin-out" route is being pursued, developing term sheets and agreements, and may involve incubator space in the UNCW CIE.

UNCW IP Protection and Support Committees

There are two separate IP committees that are utilized as part of the commercialization process at UNCW, the IP Protection Committee and the IP Support Committee. Members of these committees are selected by the Chancellor’s Intellectual Property Committee and include members of the UNCW community with backgrounds in technology commercialization and innovation issues.

After the disclosure process, the IP Protection Committee will review the invention and decide on its patenability. This could result in reverting the ownership back to the inventor, providing support  for additional developmental research, or to actively protect the IP. Depending on the IP, UNCW can take different approaches to IP protection, including filing for a patent, filing for a provisional patent, filing for copyright or trademark protection, arranging non-disclosure agreements, or treating the IP as a trade secret. Current members of this committee are: Dr. Craig Galbraith, Steve Fontana, and Jared Kerr.

Another important element of the commercialization process is the UNCW IP Support Committee. Faculty can make a formal request for support by emailing a completed IP Support Request Form to oic@uncw.edu. After the OIC reviews your request form, they will provide feedback, ask for additional information, and schedule a date to present. The OIC Manager will provide further guidance on this process. The UNCW IP Support Committee has a variety of resources that they can provide (such as funding, mentoring, course releases, graduate student support, business development, space in the CIE, etc.). The UNCW IP Support Committee also has the expertise in suggesting the best way to commercialize this knowledge depending on the form of IP protection, how scalable the business is, market potential, and the start-up resource requirements. After presenting, the UNCW IP Support Committee will make a timely decision on whether to: provide all requested support, provide partial support, recommend further development, or deny support. This "early-stage" development time for a business is one of the most exciting times, but also a period when seeking out good advice and getting the proper support is absolutely critical. Current members of this committee are: Craig Galbraith, Steve Fontana, Jared Kerr, Karl Ricanek, Justine Reel, Chris Krumm, Justine Reel, and Angela Housan. 

For those presenting to the IP Support Committee, please see the criteria for the rocket pitch and evaluation form that the committe uses.

NOTE: As a general rule, do not form an LLC or Corporation without first talking to the OIC. There are rules about how UNCW can support a LLC or Corporation (even if the faculty own the LLC or Corporation) versus faculty research and technology development.

Faculty Startups

  • Mobile Education LLC (2007) - Text messaging and mobile applications
  • Level-Up Learning LLC (2010) - Educational games
  • Uni-spire LLC (2012) - Writing across the curriculum
  • Edu-Tell LLC (2014) - Based on the idea of self-mentoring
  • Silurian Pharmaceuticals Inc. (2014) - To develop the patented Brevenal portfolio
  • Lapetus Solutions Inc. (2015) - Aging and perceived aging - FaceMyAge.com

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

On many campuses the functions of technology transfer, supporting commercialization, entrepreneurship support, and incubation are all separate divisions housed in different locations. UNCW takes a best practices approach, and ties these functions together.

Formally, the Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC) is responsible for technology transfer (IP disclosure and protection), developing programs to identify and encourage potential commercial ideas within the UNCW Community, and then supporting these ideas through development and ultimately scaling up and/or licensing. It tries to be a one-stop shopping location for these activities and resources.

However, once an idea, technology, IP, or NPIP is seen to have good potential, the next step is to actually commercialize it -- to bring it to market. This typically involves forming an LLC or Corporation, scaling up the business, developing working prototypes or real products, and raising additional funding. This is when the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) gets involved. The UNCW CIE offers incubator space, business mentoring, networking, and various entrepreneurship events that can assist an early stage firm. To make this transition smooth for firms that are "scaling up", the UNCW OIC is actually located in the UNCW CIE building on College Road, and the OIC has strategic involvement in the CIE. The CIE has a number of resources it can bring to bear.