Discovery scientist set to seek and encourage business potential of IU Bloomington research

  • Sept. 10, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As the fall semester kicks into gear, a technology manager with the Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. will work closely with researchers on the Bloomington campus and the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology to encourage and assist startup business activity.

Wesley Pennington recently was named to the position of discovery scientist -- a role created through collaboration between IU and the Lilly Endowment Inc. to aid increased commercialization of promising innovations developed by IU Bloomington faculty.

Much of the job extends Pennington’s duties at IURTC, which largely involves efforts around information technology, software and health technology innovations developed at Indiana University, the Indiana University School of Medicine and the university’s affiliate groups.

“Technology managers act as consultants for early stage ventures,” Pennington said. “We look for opportunities to get innovations translated into the commercial space and get startups off the ground and running.

“We offer critical strategy and support when they need it most. We use our expertise and our networks to put university-based entrepreneurs in contact with the people and services they need to improve their ventures and achieve milestones. And while our immediate focus is on the impact of the technologies themselves, it’s about economic development as well -- creating jobs and retaining talent.”

Under IU President Michael A. McRobbie’s emphasis toward establishing “a prosperous and innovative Indiana” through “a culture of building and making” as part of IU’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, such innovation will be increasingly sought in Bloomington as well.

As a discovery scientist, Pennington will seek and encourage entrepreneurial research campus-wide from all schools, departments and investigators -- not just those oriented toward science, health, computing or technology.

“My duties will take what our team was already doing -- commercializing early-stage technologies out of the university -- and adds a focus on how to increase the impact of our efforts and further serve IU’s faculty, staff and students,” Pennington said. 

“We will develop strategies, design new programs and capitalize on our core competencies to develop and pervade an entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout the university and state. As part of this, we will especially look to connect our different campuses, as well as the resources, talent and opportunities at each.”

Bill Brizzard, IURTC’s director of commercialization for the Bloomington campus, said Pennington will work to minimize the obstacles that researchers can face when innovative research offers commercial potential.

“One of our goals at IURTC is to make it as easy as possible for faculty to work with us,” Brizzard said. “Wes has considerable expertise in this area and already has worked with numerous projects on the Bloomington campus, so he is natural fit for this role.”

The Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology works with IU Bloomington faculty to identify current and new research programs that hold commercial potential and to protect intellectual property. Based at Simon Hall, it also provides grant application assistance, identifies industry partners, negotiates industry contracts, supports project management and develops strategies to increase the use of core IU facilities by industry partners.

“Working more closely with Wes will strengthen our overall efforts to promote a campus-wide culture of entrepreneurship,” said Keith R. Davis, the center’s director. “The innovation is certainly in place. But we need to find more ways to channel the untapped potential of these discoveries into commercial opportunities that give them the best chance to solve real-world problems. Wes will be a key part of this initiative.”

Since joining IURTC in 2013, Pennington has developed and overseen growth for more than 100 high-potential technologies, helped create and advise numerous startup companies and collaborated with IURTC’s Spin Up program to develop technologies and raise seed money for IURTC’s portfolio.

Outside his IURTC responsibilities, he also serves as a researcher-in-residence for the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Kelley School of Business, maintains an appointment with IU’s School of Public Health and founded 113 West, an Indianapolis-based design and innovation firm.

About IURTC: IURTC is a not-for-profit agency that helps IU faculty and researchers realize the commercial potential of their discoveries. Since 1997, IURTC’s university clients have accounted for more than 2,800 inventions, nearly 1,900 patent applications and more than 80 startup companies. IURTC is part of the Innovate Indiana initiative, which engages strategic partners to leverage and advance IU’s intellectual resources and expertise, enhance Indiana’s economic growth and contribute to the overall quality of life for Hoosiers. Indiana University is designated as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. This recognizes IU’s commitment across all its campuses to being a leading institution in fostering regional economic development.
Wesley Pennington

Wesley Pennington

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Bill W. Hornaday

Innovate Indiana/IU Office of the Vice President for Engagement

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