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News You Can Use: Universities Investing in Invention

Universities are innovation powerhouses. Armed with some of the world’s brightest minds—and with direct access to the next generation of scientists and technologists—they’re able to focus talent to develop solutions to a broad scope of challenges. 

News You Can Use: Universities Investing in Invention

From building new centers to awarding grants in key areas, this week’s News You Can Use includes stories about how universities around the country are investing in invention.

  • Recognizing the important contributions that students make to invention, the Lemelson Foundation gifted MIT $1 million to support programs that teach students key skills necessary for successful innovation and entrepreneurship.
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Behind the Breakthrough: Jake Russell

This week on Behind the Breakthrough, we’re profiling Jake Russell, a member of Intellectual Ventures’ Invention Development Fund. While he usually focuses on software development and innovative computer algorithms, he also applies the process of invention to his passion for cars and racing.

Behind the Breakthrough: Jake Russell

Photo: Jake Russell and his daughter.

Jake works as an Invention Development Manager at Intellectual Ventures. In the past, his breakthrough inventions in software development provided JPEG2000 software products and services for the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) industry.

Here are some of his reflections:

On the process of invention:
“When I think of an invention, I usually start with an important problem and work toward a solution. But effective inventing isn’t about coming up with just any solution; it’s about finding one that’s both useful and practical.  Trying to conceive an invention that’s useful and practical in the future can make you want to look into a crystal ball.”

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Game-Changing Times in the Transportation Industry

It’s an important time in the transportation industry as the consumer depends on technology to stay connected with their professional and social networks. This dependency is driving consumer electronics, connectivity, and information technologies rapidly to converge in automotive and other transportation industries. Automotive companies are finding the need to maintain access to a wide array of relevant patents, not traditionally available in the automotive space.

Game-Changing Times in the Transportation Industry

That’s why we are so pleased that Ford Motor Company signed a license agreement with Intellectual Ventures (IV). The deal provides Ford and its affiliates with a license to IV's patent portfolio of approximately 40,000 current IP assets in addition to future IV assets that may be acquired during the license term. IV offers an efficient way to access the invention rights companies need to drive innovation within the market.

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International Governments Prioritize IP Development

Intellectual property development and protection is a global enterprise, and more and more countries are viewing IP as a critical asset to their economies. Global buy-in on the importance of IP is moving governments to incentivize inventors to find cutting-edge solutions to today’s most pressing challenges.

International Governments Prioritize IP Development

As countries prioritize intellectual property development, the value of collaboration is becoming increasingly evident, and engagement in the IP landscape is making cross-border cooperation easier. September’s BOAO Forum for Asia in Seattle, where IV founder and CTO Edward Jung spoke about the global benefits from Asia’s invention boom, offered one such opportunity to learn from executives and innovators from Asia and hear about ways they are approaching the world’s most challenging problems. 

Prioritizing invention—and strengthening the IP marketplace—also increases the number of people globally who can devote time to addressing systemic issues facing the developing world. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently released a study identifying the “top-50 critical scientific and technological breakthroughs required for sustainable global development,” which highlighted innovations in desalination technology, smartphones, education resources, energy sources, and fertilizers, among others.

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Milestones Met for Vaccine Logistics

2015 brings two early and notable milestones for the Global Good and Intellectual Ventures Laboratory teams’ work to commercialize a passive vaccine storage device: a stamp of approval from the World Health Organization and branding transition to our manufacturing partner in China, AUCMA.

Milestones Met for Vaccine Logistics

Despite immunizations being one of the greatest success stories in modern medicine, one in five children worldwide are still not fully protected with even the most basic vaccines. As a result, an estimated 1.5 million children die each year—one every 20 seconds—from vaccine-preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. Tens of thousands of other children suffer from severe or permanently disabling illnesses. [Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation] 

Immunization rates are lowest in rural areas, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, where poor infrastructure and unreliable power means life-saving vaccines are often spoiled or out of stock. Many a troubling story has been told of a mother travelling with her young child for miles on foot, only to be turned away at a health post that has run out of vaccines.  

It was this issue of vaccine delivery that presented the inventors, rocket scientists, hackers, health experts and industrial engineers here at Intellectual Ventures (IV) with the type of problem that inspires them the most:

  1. Could a technology invention save lives in the short-term?
  2. Could the market make the invention affordable and accessible for the long-term? 

I’m proud to say the teams at Global Good and IV Lab are well on their way to answering ‘yes’ to both.

Over the past five years, both teams have worked hard to develop a device that can keep vaccines at the appropriate temperatures for a month or more with repeated vaccine retrievals and no need for electricity. In a rural health post, like the ones we have worked with in Ethiopia, Senegal, and Nigeria, that makes this passive vaccine storage device what Bill Gates has jokingly, but genuinely, referred to as the “keg of life.”   

Significantly, the World Health Organization has designated our passive vaccine storage device  “prequalified”  under its Performance, Quality and Safety (PQS) program as well. PQS prequalification is a requirement for most governments in the developing world for procurement and implementation of a device, and it represents a significant seal of approval for real world conditions.

This PQS prequalification also helps our commercial partner, AUCMA, to move the device beyond manufacturing and into distribution in the communities with the lowest rates of vaccination. Based in China, AUCMA is one of the country’s largest refrigeration manufacturers, and critical to our efforts to catalyze the market around a commercial passive vaccine storage device. So much so, in fact, that we together have developed a brand for the device for AUCMA to take to market, called the Arktek™. (Apparently, passive vaccine storage device isn’t the catchiest or most easily translated term. I can’t imagine why!)

In the coming months, you’ll start to see the Arktek brand appear in more of Intellectual Ventures’ and AUCMA’s marketing, but more importantly, I hope you will see this life-saving device in more of the countries that need it most.

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News You Can Use

This week’s News You Can Use features stories that show how a strong intellectual property system supports economic growth. As a result, countries are prioritizing investment in innovation.

News You Can Use

Countries with Strong IP Systems Invest More in R&D; Innovate More

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s blog published four key graphs showing the correlation between a strong IP system and a strong economy. The graphs use data from the Global Intellectual Property Center’s recently released International IP Index to show positive relationships between a strong IP system and:

  • investment in research and development;
  • percentage of employees in knowledge-intensive jobs;
  • economic investment generally; and
  • innovative output.

The U.S. ranks highly in these charts, and countries worldwide are working to bolster IP protections to foster positive outcomes demonstrated by these metrics.

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News You Can Use

In honor of Wednesday’s National Inventors’ Day, News You Can Use features stories about inventions and inventors. Intellectual Ventures deeply appreciates the hard work and intellect that men and women across the country apply each day to developing new ideas that improve the world. People such as this year's National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees....

News You Can Use

National Inventors Hall of Fame Inducts 2015 Class

Each year, the National Inventors Hall of Fame inducts a new class of extraordinary inventors into its membership. This year’s honorees include Edith Clarke, who improved electricity transmission over wires, Charles Drew, whose invention has saved countless lives by allowing hospitals to preserve blood plasma, and Jaap Haartsen, who invented the now-ubiquitous Bluetooth technology. Check out the full list at The Washington Post.

Upstart Ranks Top Inventors in New Businesses

The Upstart Business Journal announced this week its inaugural class of the top 100 in upstarts, which seeks to honor big thinkers whose new ideas and companies are changing their respective industries. In addition to visionaries and creative, the list includes specific categories for inventors and reinventors. This year, Upstart features Toby Rush of EyeVerify, who invented new biometrics-related software that would use a scan of a smartphone user’s eye as a security key and Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, whose handheld device improves laboratory diagnostics by running up to 70 tests on a pinprick’s worth of blood.

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Introducing “Behind the Breakthrough”

This National Inventors’ Day, Intellectual Ventures is kicking off a new series to spotlight the people whose ideas fuel progress. Over the coming weeks, we will feature interviews with the inventors and scientists in IV’s network and in the greater inventor community to understand their approach to advancing science and technology. We’ll also highlight their future visions and offer anecdotes about things they think might surprise people about working in the field of invention.

Introducing “Behind the Breakthrough”

We’ve started this series to show our appreciation for the men and women whose hard work and creative intellects have made modern invention possible, but also to inspire others with stories about individuals who are making real breakthroughs for our society.

Today we’re featuring our first profile on Dr. Gregory Phelan. Dr. Phelan has worked as a member of IV’s Invention Network, where his inventions have made great strides in creating alternatives to potentially harmful BPA-based polymers in food packaging, baby bottles, and other products.

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Behind the Breakthrough: Dr. Gregory Phelan

As a part of our new series highlighting inventors and their work, we spoke recently with Dr. Gregory Phelan about his approach to invention, what motivates him to continue to discover new things, and what he envisions for the future of innovation. 

Behind the Breakthrough: Dr. Gregory Phelan

Dr. Phelan is an associate professor and chair of the chemistry department at the State University of New York College at Cortland and is part of IV’s Inventor Network. Dr. Phelan’s inventions have made great strides in creating alternatives to potentially harmful BPA-based polymers in food packaging, baby bottles, and other products.

Here are some Dr. Phelan’s reflections: 

On the challenges of being an inventor

As a trained scientist, you learn a lot about how to do lab work, how to problem solve, and how to creatively think. But inventors must also have the ability to connect the dots—I can make this material, but how can I get this out to society? Who can help me commercialize this? One of the greatest challenges of being an inventor is finding a way to do it all—to build an idea, but then to find the business partners who can implement that idea in a way that benefits society.

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Honoring African American Inventors

Perhaps one of the most critical components of invention is the inventor. Men and women who have dedicated their lives to improving society, yet too often go unrecognized for their contributions to its betterment. In honor of National Inventors’ Day in the U.S. on February 11, Intellectual Ventures is giving the spotlight to some of these unsung heroes. 

Honoring African American Inventors

February is also Black History Month, so we begin our series by highlighting past and present African American inventors who’ve made great contributions to their fields. People such as Thomas Jennings and Judy Reed, the first African American man and woman to receive patents for their ideas. In the spirit of National Inventors’ Day, let’s honor these unsung heroes in the inventor community. 

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