JCITR Helps Faculty Protect Their Intellectual Property

By Sarah Hunker

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Many IU faculty may not know about the recently created Johnson Center for Innovation and Translational Research (JCITR). Here at IUB, the JCITR works with faculty to help them identify and further develop their ideas and any intellectual property associated with their work. The JCITR works to promote research discoveries and even help individual's startup companies according to JCITR Director, Dr. Keith Davis.

“A lot of people think it has more to do with science based things but that’s not true,” Davis said. “Faculty who work in media, education, and many other areas on campus do create work products that can potentially have a commercial application.”
 Along with this, Davis said the JCITR meets with faculty to help them find a path for their project including potential companies that may fund research the faculty’s research.

“We meet with faculty to discuss their work [and] make a determination as to whether or not the work they are doing represents intellectual property that can be protected by either patents or copyrights,” Davis said. “If they are interested in working with industry we try to identify industry partners that might be interested in funding additional research in their lab.”

JCITR’s biggest challenge is to get the word out to other faculty members at IU, especially female faculty. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women hold “an extremely small share of patents” so the JCITR wants to work with women to help them reach academic and professional goals as well as point them to the appropriate campus resources for other needs they may have, such as questions about legal issues related to their research.

“We’re sort of a one stop shot for faculty who want to get engaged with seeing how their research can be used to solve real world problems,” Davis sad.

A major effort for the JCTIR during its start-up phase has been, and continues to focus on drawing more awareness to their organization. Therefore, they strive to proactively identify faculty who might be able to take advantage of their services and communicate effectively with those who need their help. Assistant Director of the JCITR, Johanna Salazar, said it critical to have good communication when questions need to be answered by faculty.

“The more people know that they can come to JCITR and get help and that it’s really tailored to their needs is important,” Salazar said.

For faculty looking to start up projects and protect their rights, they may not have all the necessary resources or even know where to start. At JCITR, they have experience, answers, and ideas to help that individual along the way.

“The fact is that there is help available and you don’t have to do everything on your own. You don’t have to try to reinvent the wheel,” Salazar said.

The JCTIR works to assist faculty even when they don’t know where to begin with their research project.

“Due to the complexities of the university environment, there can be a perception we can’t do this work because we have never done it before. That’s not true. It’s a matter of figuring out how to do it, and I think having a team approach is oftentimes what is needed to help someone succeed when pursuing projects that are not traditionally in their line of work,” Salazar said.

The organization also has a grant program that was implemented two years ago to help fund faculty projects. There is a requirement that the faculty member an invention disclosure form with the IU Research and Technology Corporation (IURTC)” Salazar said. There is then an application and budget process and review for the grants before they are awarded.

Associate Professor of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies, Shu Tien Cole, is also working with the JCITR to help her idea get off the ground as well. Cole said she wants to create a database or possibly in the future an app, that lets individuals with disabilities know what hotels are accessible to them when traveling. This will help them plan and make travel decisions, Cole said.

“My research overall is the travel experience of people with disabilities, especially with mobility impairments like wheelchair users or using any kind of mobility devices,” Cole said.

Cole’s main question through all of this is, “How do we keep us active and still traveling as we age?”

Cole received a grant to help her fund the idea. The organization where she got her grant was the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation. This specific organization is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those with spinal cord injuries Cole said. When thinking more about her idea, Cole said she wanted to protect her rights to it and then contacted the JCITR.

“I contacted them to learn if I do this project how would I be able to protect the ideas I come up with?” Cole said.

Along with this, Cole said that the JCITR also helped her come up with even more ideas for her project that she had never considered. They asked her questions that she had never even thought about before.

“I was just thinking about the intellectual property, but then they started to give me other ideas,” Cole said. “I think now at least I know what kind of options I have [so] that I can carry this through… they kind of pushed me forward into thinking about it.”

With all of the help she has gotten from the JCITR, Cole said she has started spreading the word to others about what the organization does.
“I think it’s really great. I was really surprised that they are so willing to help and that the university is so encouraging of this kind entrepreneurial activity,” Cole said.

With her ideas in place, Cole said that the JCITR helped her think of new and innovational ways to address her ultimate goal. With that, she said she definitely felt more confident when moving on with her plans.

“I do think it is helpful to encourage faculty to explore and do more, so I felt very encouraged after I talked to them.”

As part of the #Techtober campaign, the JCTIR and the Faculty Leadership Team (FLT) at Center of Excellence for Women in Technology (CEWiT) will be hosting the CEWiT Faculty and Ph.D. Salon. The Salons have been events that the FLT have been holding monthly every semester. The Salon will entail three or four faulty members that have worked with the JCTIR. Faculty members currently participating are professor of Biology Robert Innes, assistant professor of the School of Public Health Hannah Block and Department of Psychological and Brain Science researcher Yvonne Lai. The salon will take place on Tuesday, October 25 from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. at the IMU in the Faculty Room of the University club. Those who wish to attend should RSVP by October 24. Light refreshments will be served.