I just received a message that the Kauffman foundation just announced a new product: iBridge. Nothing to do with MP3’s this time. It’s not even an Apple product. It is an application designed to ease the transaction burden on university technology transfer offices and it encourage more open and efficient access to research by academics and other interested parties. Carl J. Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation explains it like this:

“Universities are tremendous wellsprings of knowledge. The iBridge program encourages widespread access to that valuable information, linking researchers with interested parties, and ultimately helping to more fully realize the innovation potential that research offers.”

The iBridge application initially will be piloted by selected universities throughout the United States, including Washington University in St. Louis, University of North Carolina ot Chapel Hill, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Cornell University and the University of Kansas. It is expected that a total of seven U.S. universities will participate in the initial pilot in the coming months.

Here is how it works…or is supposed to work

The iBridge platform complements their existing processes for collaboration and technology transfer. Universities may use the iBridge application to license and distribute a variety of information, including software, research tools, databases, teaching materials, surveys and reference materials that by themselves do not rise to the level of an ‘innovation home run’. Postings may also include a variety of research artefacts, as well as descriptions of ongoing research activities. Most of these innovations are deemed not worthy of patents and are therefore shelved. But many of these shelved innovations are, in fact, valuable research tools or software that can be utilized to either accelerate research, or, if bundled with other innovations, developed as a commercially viable innovation for licensing. Unfortunately, these shelved innovations rarely find their way into the hands of interested third parties. Posting a discovery on the iBridge Web site not only formally discloses that a discovery has been made, it also safeguards the university’s interest in its intellectual property by starting a record-keeping file.

I haven’t seen it and don’t know exactly how it works, but it sounds a bit like a forum or an online academic community, doesn’t it? Wasn’t that the way the Internet started? On the other hand, I do think a lot of research is duplicated because we don’t know that it’s done already or is being left unused altogether. Time will tell if it works…I’ll keep an eye on it.    

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