Alvernia University official speaks at national tech panel

Alvernia University administrator Dr. Rodney S. Ridley Sr. brought his expertise in the field of technology transfer to the 2023 AUTM Annual Meeting, serving as a panelist during a discussion entitled “Reimagining The TTO: From Technology Transfer to Knowledge Transfer.”

Ridley is the chief operating officer of Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute, as well as the college’s vice president of research, economic development  and innovation, and dean of the College of STEAM.

The Annual Meeting held in Austin, Texas, by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) — an academic research advocacy nonprofit with more than 3,000 members nationwide — ran from Feb. 19 to 22 and was attended by technology transfer professionals from around the globe aiming to develop connections and gain insights, according to a Feb. 23 press release.

Technology transfer involves the process of growing discoveries and innovations into a product or service, and includes corporate engagement, protecting and licensing inventions to companies, new venture creation and incubation, and economic development, according to the AUTM website.

Ridley’s panel, featuring five other panelists in academic tech transfer, highlighted how the future of academic tech transfer will be shaped by continued mission growth and increased federal expectations arising from the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which allocates $280 billion toward bolstering the U.S. semiconductor industry, developing emergent technologies and strengthening the STEM workforce.

“As a smaller institution with resource challenges, you have to make sure you are aligning yourself with the mission of the institution,” Ridley said in the release. “It forces you to be extremely innovative in how you approach things. I like to think of myself as an entrepreneur with a startup, and successful startups do whatever it takes to survive. If you do it right, how tech transfer not only affects the university but the community around it can become the future of how universities can change society.”

Ridley founded the O’Pake Institute’s technology transfer office, SPARK Business Incubator and O’Pake Fellows Program where Alvernia students have experiential learning opportunities with local businesses in greater Berks County.

He also oversees business venture investment activities, industry outreach and the Intellectual Property committee.

Ridley holds 28 U.S. patents and numerous foreign patents, and facilitated the O’Pake Institute’s first patent, which was secured in November.

Two Alvernia students Dr. Caitlin Long, graduate assistant of health, research and innovation, and Robert Philpot, O’Pake Fellow of Engineering, attended the annual meeting to represent O’Pake’s Intellectual Property (IP) committee along with Ridley.

Long is one of the three U.S. applicants who landed the Susan Riley Keyes AUTM fellowship for 2022 through 2023.

Through this fellowship, Long receives monthly training alongside nearly 20 other fellows from Europe, and has two professional mentors.

“I’m realizing that AUTM is all about support and making connections,” said Long. “I’m loving the network I am building of other university and industry partners that will help us grow our own program.”

Philpot’s role in the Intellectual Property committee is geared toward developing prototypes based on SPARK Business Incubator clients’ needs.

Through this experience, Philpot and Long were able to learn best practices and emerging trends in the tech transfer industry and connect with professionals, organizations and institutes of higher education across the globe, the release said.

From left, Robert Philpot, Dr. Rodney S. Ridley Sr., and Caitlin Long, representing Alvernia University at AUTM’s Annual Meeting of 2023. (Courtesy of Alvernia University)

The O’Pake Institute’s TTO and IP committee focuses on assisting companies and entrepreneurs in IP training, feasibility analyses, management, valuation and commercialization.

These services aim to merge the academic and commercial aspects of developing a product, and to act as a catalyst in the commercialization process, the release said.

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