Idea Foundry has been working with the university for the past five years, but the new partnership allows the innovation-based economic development group to become more embedded into the university, said Michael Matesic, president and CEO of Idea Foundry. “We have worked in concert for years, but now with a formal contract in place, it allows us to get involved earlier, to engage faculty sooner and more openly,” he said.
Since the formation of Pitt’s Innovation Institute last year, the organization has been focusing on how to best develop the ideas and talent within the university. The institute brought together Pitt’s existing Office of Technology Management, Office of Enterprise Development and the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. Matesic said he met with the institute’s director Marc Malandro shortly after its creation to discuss the role Idea Foundry can play in helping the institute reach its goals.
The new partnership is structured to allow teams from both organizations to work together from the beginning of the commercialization process. Idea Foundry’s staff will assist early in the process to help the institute evaluate the commercial readiness of innovations and mentor innovators through the Pitt Ventures Program.
While there is a formal contract in place, Matesic said the agreement allows for flexibility to allow each idea to take a path that is best suited. “Each innovation should go through an optimized path as it best fits,” he said. “Sometimes a license might be the best answer, and sometimes not pursuing the idea is the best answer. It’s not just about creating new startups.”
While he said it’s not a volume game, the partnership should increase the number of innovations Idea Foundry helps support at the university. On average, Matesic said Idea Foundry helps to support 25 to 30 innovations at Pitt each year. “The university, through the creation of the Innovation Institute and its implementation, is becoming much more streamlined to make an impact locally,” he said. “Clearly we’re seeing the university take steps toward being even more impactful.”