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Students work with military patents to develop entrepreneurial skills

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A program that paired college students with military researchers at the former Griffiss Air Base in Rome will now move on to other military bases across the country. The Commercialization Academy has helped students get a feel for what it’s like to be an entrepreneur by using patents, developed by the military, that currently aren’t being used.

Charlotte Hayden was one of the 24 members of the Commercialization Academy last fall, sifting through several military patents sitting idle at Griffiss. The idea of the program was to have students find a patent they could develop commercially. Hayden, a junior at Clarkson University, and her team found one, called an "event detention patent."

"It was an anomaly detection software that could make predictions on what was going to happen in an industrial process before it actually happened,” said Hayden.

Now the challenge was to turn that software into something an entrepreneur could sell. They looked at everything from power to biopharmaceuticals before settling on the paper industry.

"So, right now it detects inefficiencies in the pulp that down the line will lead to a paper break," said Hayden.

The team was one of the winners at a showcase last fall. Plans now are to get a license for the technology and create a business around it. Hayden says working with actual patents, and the scientists who developed them, made this a one of a kind learning experience.

"This is different from a lot of programs out there, with juniors starting a fake business. We did the real thing,” she said.

Emily O'Neill, a spokeswoman for the program, says the Commercialization Academy is sponsored by the Griffiss Institute in Rome, in conjunction with the Air Force Research Lab. Participants included business and technology students from colleges across the state. The patents the students had to choose from were developed by military researchers, but are not currently in use.

"They originally had military applications, or they have not yet been used," said O'Neill. "So these students are able to take these technologies and bring them into the private sector.”

O’Neill says one way this program may be ground breaking was the fact that a third of the participants were women, something that can be rare among tech entrepreneurs.

"If you’re a female engineer or scientist, maybe in the real world, so to speak, you might feel there is a glass ceiling. But with this program, it’s very accessible,” she said.

With the success of the Griffiss experience behind them, the Commercialization Academy will next move to military research labs in Arizona and Ohio.