By Holly Ramer
---- — CONCORD — The University of New Hampshire hopes to play a bigger role in economic development and bring in more money by combining several offices and services now scattered across campus.
The university yesterday launched UNH Innovation, an initiative that brings together its licensing efforts, a lab that tests data networking technologies and other programs and builds upon them.
Officials said the project will create a clear path into the university for companies interested in its technology, equipment and expertise, while also giving students more opportunities to work directly with businesses through a new mentoring program.
The goal is to take a more complete view of the university’s assets and improve its business relationships, said Marc Sedam, the initiative’s managing director.
Licensing officials recently compared the university’s technology strengths to the strengths of the state’s business community and were surprised to find significant gaps, he said.
For example, UNH has strong programs in space science and maritime studies, but there were few business relationships that took advantage of them, he said.
“To a certain degree, the business community kind of forgot about us. They wouldn’t think of UNH as a place to answer their questions, and I’m not sure why that is,” he said. “Universities are very good at focusing inward. We focus on our students and we’ve never lost sight of the fact that what we do is teach students, that’s our primary objective. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do other things.”
Commercializing science and technology research is an obvious starting point, he said, but there are opportunities in overlooked areas such as liberal arts and the humanities as well.
One example would be adding trademark protection to an anti-bullying training and education curriculum developed at UNH that can then be sold to other schools, he said.
Sedam, who was hired as the director of the UNH Office of Research Partnerships and Commercialization three years ago, said the university is now focused, from the top of the administration on down, on getting ideas into the market.
And while that emphasis is new, he said it fits with UNH’s founding as a land grant university, created as place where the state’s students could be educated and then return home to improve the economies of their local communities.
“In the 1860s, it was about farming practices and agricultural practices,” he said. “In the 2010s, we’ve really just substituted patents for plows and copyrights for cows. But it’s still taking the ideas and the learnings from the university and bringing it out to society for public benefit, job creation and, yeah, revenue.”