By Brian Brus
Courtesy of The Journal Record
TULSA – A University of Tulsa professor is taking a one-year sabbatical to expand the school’s small portfolio of commercialized intellectual properties.
Jeremy Daily, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, has taken the technology he developed at TU that extracts crash data from a vehicle’s engine control module and turned it into a company called Synercon. The business development was made possible under a federal cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Justice, and the company has already landed a contract with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Daily said.
Bill Lawson, director of TU’s technology commercialization program, said that since the university could not sell Daily’s so-called black-box products to meet demand, Daily was encouraged to start Synercon Technologies LLC and lease the technology from the school. Such tech transfers are common at large universities such as Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, but it’s a long time coming for TU.
And the school administration wants to make sure its faculty and research students know their efforts would be likewise supported, Lawson said; Daily’s efforts can help set a trend of intellectual property development and commercialization at TU.
“We have about 20 patents or so, and our number of invention disclosures is going up each year,” Lawson said. “But this is a growing area for the University of Tulsa and it’s pretty exciting. … Only about 15 percent of universities’ technology transfer programs actually pay for themselves. TU’s is one of those in the 15 percent, but it’s just a very small number.
“We have a world-class faculty that does great things, but there wasn’t a culture here of tech transfer until just about 10 years ago,” he said. “It takes time to change culture and a lot of our new faculty come from schools with stronger programs.”
One of TU’s earlier technology commercializations was a seven-figure patent sale several years ago that didn’t make it to market, he said. A more recent development involved a way to introduce and measure bacteria in groundwater; that concept has yielded about $750,000, Lawson said.
Products similar to Synercon’s Forensic Link Adapter are already in use in many large commercial trucks; they’re referred to as heavy vehicle event data recorders, or hvEDRs. The recorders are usually built into the electronic control modules used to store data such as speeds of the moving vehicle, time driven, brake status and diagnostic trouble codes. The general public is most familiar with the technology from news reports about forensic investigations regarding airplane accidents. Daily’s product works with existing hvEDR technology already in place by extracting and preserving the data.
Lawson said most bigger schools with developed tech transfer centers typically have biomedical programs that generate a lot of valuable, marketable concepts.
“We’re starting to get involved more in that area, and we’re moving in that direction and cooperating with the University of Oklahoma on a community medicine program in Tulsa,” he said.
“Every university has a goal to share the fruits of intellectual endeavors with the larger community and benefit society, and the way you do that is to commercialize it so somebody can buy it,” he said.