Colorado State University, Saratov State University in Russia Join Forces to Take Laboratory Innovation to the Marketplace

Note to Reporters: Reporters interested in speaking with the Russian delegation should contact Emily Wilmsen at (970) 491-2336.

Economic development and technology transfer experts from Saratov State University in Russia are visiting their Colorado State University counterparts for several weeks to learn the U.S. approach to commercializing laboratory inventions.

The partnership could someday lead to joint ownership of technology between the United States and Russia.

The Office of the Vice President for Engagement and the Colorado State University Research Foundation, or CSURF, are hosting the Russian visitors through Friday, Nov. 5. CSURF aids the university with intellectual property patenting and licensing management, real estate and financing of equipment.

The two universities established a formal strategic partnership a year ago, which includes a Saratov State representation office at Colorado State University. Saratov State University is one of 27 Russian universities designated as a National Research University. The partnership with Colorado State is the only such bilateral university relationship that is recognized by the Russian Federation. The partnership seeks to establish long-term institutional research, teaching, and extension relationships that include joint research and commercialization of intellectual property.

“This relationship protects their intellectual property as they venture into what is relatively new territory,” said Lou Swanson, vice president for Engagement at Colorado State. “We’re working with their intellectual property managers so that our two systems are compatible in jointly commercializing intellectual property. This is a truly new partnership innovation between a Russian university and an American university.”

Support for Russian university researchers disappeared with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990, said Boris Rakitin, vice rector in International Affairs at Saratov State University, who serves as second-in-command at his university. Now, like their U.S. university counterparts, university administrators seek technology transfer opportunities as an additional source of revenue.

Russia passed a law allowing universities to commercialize technology in 2009.

Previously, “the owner of all intellectual property was the state – it was forbidden for universities to do any commercialization of intellectual property,” Rakitin said. “It was a hard time for Russia over the 20 years since (the breakup of the Soviet Union) and there was not such a demand. Under Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev, they say we should go this direction: The universities should have additional money for researchers other than what the state has to give them.”

Saratov State University has promising technologies including artificial skin that heals severe burns – now in clinical trials in Russia – and such clean energy advancements as slower, more efficient wind turbines and a chemical catalyst that eliminates engine and stove emissions, Rakitin said.

Other members of the Russian delegation visiting Colorado State:

• Maria V. Storozhenko, director, Office for International Programs
• Liana E. Gritsak, Vice director of Department for Commercialization
• Olga Y. Chelnokova, associate professor, Department of Economic Theory and Economics
• Natalia V. Romanova, director of Center for Patent Services
• Maria K. Trofimova, assistant, Office of the Rector

Assisting with the collaboration is Alex Kuraev-Maxah, partnership coordinator for the Vice President of Engagement at Colorado State.

“We’re sharing with them our education and experiences we’ve had in technology transfer that may help give them an edge as they test the waters for commercialization of technologies globally,” said Mark Wdowik, president and CEO of CSU Management Corp. and executive fund director for CSU Fund I, a private equity investment fund to help advance early-stage companies associated with CSU.

“We’re working to establish research-and-development partnerships so our researchers can work directly with their researchers in key critical core areas such as agricultural sciences and animal health,” said Bill Farland, vice president for Research at CSU. “Saratov State University’s goals are very similar to our land-grant mission of education, research and engagement with an eye toward sharing technological innovations with the public.”

The partnership means Saratov researchers could work with Colorado State to commercialize their innovations and those created jointly through CSURF’s Technology Transfer Office, Wdowik said. CSU will also assist Saratov State to shore up its own internal commercialization capabilities.

“We have a lot to learn from them as well,” Wdowik said. “They’ve got improved access to Europe and Asia, for example. Together, we should be able to leverage this partnership to have larger reach than what we each might be able to do on our own.”

As a result of the partnership forged a year ago, Saratov State is in discussions with CSU regarding digitization of rare archival German-Russian documents. CSU already maintains the Sidney Heitman Germans from Russia collection, which contains original documents and oral histories from the hundreds of German-Russians who emigrated from Saratov and surrounding Russian provinces to become Colorado’s sugar beet and wheat farmers in the 1800s.

In September 2008, the Colorado State University Faculty Council approved creation of an International Center for German-Russian studies as a partner for the Saratov State University Center. The CSU center has an international board, including historians from both universities.

The Saratov delegates have said they would discuss possibilities for a virtual research park to promote collaborations between CSU and Saratov scientists working on similar issues, including clean energy and biofuels, software development and biotechnology. With the Internet and advancements in technology, scientists in Russia can work hand-in-hand with their counterparts in the United States.

The Colorado State partnership is also just a good opportunity for people to meet other people from other parts of the world, Rakitin said.

“We get to know who are the Americans and you get to know who are the Russians,” he said.