May 24, 2021
Patenting an invention and using it as the foundation for a new business is never a solo endeavor, according to Jim Fay, serial inventor and keynote speaker at Mizzou’s recent virtual event “Taking Your Ideas to Market.”
“It is an endeavor that requires pitching constantly — pitching to get money, pitching to get equipment, pitching to get space, pitching to get research and development assistance —everything is about pitching,” said Fay, a product development engineer whose inventions include the Diaper Genie, Huggies Baby Wipes, Huggies Pull-Ups training pants and DEUS Rescue equipment for firefighters.
Every year, University of Missouri faculty, students and staff work — many times behind the scenes — to innovate new discoveries and bring inventions to the market. Mizzou recently celebrated these innovators and the 29 U.S. patents issued, 70 license and option agreements with industry partners they made, and 126 invention disclosures they had between July 2019 and December 2020.
“Our faculty, staff and students are at the core of earlystage innovations that can be further developed in commercial settings,” said Tom Spencer, interim vice chancellor for research and economic development. “Their achievements are helping Mizzou contribute to the overall good of society while advancing the university’s research and economic development missions.”
MU innovators definitely have their share of “aha” moments, and they come from a wide array of disciplines, including agriculture, plant sciences, health care, journalism, engineering, education, veterinary medicine, chemistry and physics. Patents were issued in the last 18 months for animal and plant biotechnologies, computer software, devices and tools, diagnostics, therapeutics and engineering solutions.
On average, MU researchers disclose about 100 new inventions annually. The university received $12.4 million in fiscal year 2020 from companies licensing the rights to its intellectual property. Recent examples include a gene therapy to treat hearing loss, a mobile app for behavioral health researchers and a screening technology for autism.
“Invention is a process that involves preparation, incubation, inspiration, perspiration, frustration and elation,” Fay said. “Inventors are real-life magicians. They are unsung heroes who change the world and make our lives better.”