Iowa State, Northern Iowa to cooperate on protecting, managing some UNI inventions

AMES, Iowa – A new agreement between Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) allows the Iowa State offices responsible for protecting and commercializing campus inventions to provide similar services to the University of Northern Iowa and its intellectual property office. 

Officials on both campuses said the unique agreement has two Regents institutions working together to share resources, expertise and revenue.

The agreement gives UNI access to Iowa State’s expertise in managing intellectual property and provides a range of options for jointly protecting and commercializing UNI inventions. Those options include UNI taking full responsibility for cases, Iowa State helping with patent applications or Iowa State leading the entire commercialization process. The agreement also spells out how any licensing revenue from UNI inventions will be shared by the schools.

Lisa Lorenzen, the executive director of the ISU Research Foundation and director of the Office of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer, said the cooperative agreement makes sense for the universities and for Iowa. 

“One of our missions is economic development for the state of Iowa,” she said. “We want to commercialize technologies for the public good. And if we can do that while helping our sister institution, that’s good for Iowa.”

Randy Pilkington, UNI’s executive director of Business and Community Services and co-chair of the UNI Research Foundation, said the agreement is a good way to grow the commercialization of UNI inventions.

“The benefit for us is the expertise and years of experience that the Iowa State University Research Foundation has,” he said.

The agreement went into effect last week and will automatically renew every year. Either university can terminate the agreement with 30 days written notice. 

Pilkington said it’s unusual for a research university and a regional comprehensive university to work together to manage intellectual property. But he thinks the agreement maximizes state investment in the universities and can benefit both schools. 

“Iowa State will see our research strengths in metal castings, natural sciences, education and industrial technology,” said Pilkington.  

Lorenzen said the agreement is a good way “to demonstrate and increase the impact that university research has on Iowa and the world.”