Washington State University scientists brought in nearly $1 billion in sponsored research awards between 2008 and 2012. Our ability to conduct important, results-oriented research has been validated externally time and time again.

However, the question now is, how are we fostering the translation of what we create into real-world applications that benefit our state, nation, and world.

The numbers tell an encouraging story about the economic development possibilities created by the work of WSU researchers. Between 2008 and 2012, new knowledge, science, and technology by our scientists led to 286 invention disclosures, 287 patents filed, and 57 patents issued. WSU research led to the launching of 10 different startup companies, including M3 Biotechnology, focused on curing Parkinson’s Disease and cancer; Phytelligence, seeking to improve crops in our state; and Food Chain Safety, which is using cutting-edge microwave sterilization technology to positively impact the food industry. These are new companies creating new jobs in our state.

As impressive as those numbers are, we can – and must – do more to prime the pump for economic prosperity. The path from innovation to market can be long, bumpy and circuitous; smoothing the road to commercialization is critical.

A key first step in that process is creating the right organizational structure at the institution. To be frank, our current Office of Intellectual Property Administration sounds and operates like a bureaucratic relic of the past, regulatory rather than innovative.

That is why I have asked Anson Fatland, associate vice president for economic development, to oversee creation of the new WSU Office of Commercialization. The office title is a much more direct description of what we want to do – bring to the commercial market the good work of our researchers for the benefit of our stakeholders and beyond. It also gives increased institutional emphasis on innovation, discovery, commercialization, industry partnerships, and economic development.

The long-term vision for this new organization, which we are working to launch by July 1 this year, is to help create an institution-wide culture of coordination and cooperation, a culture of entrepreneurship, innovation, and development. We will continue to add tools, resources, and programs to support these activities; the new Office of Commercialization is an important and exciting first step.