Below is a flow chart demonstrating the process UIRF takes to commercialize new innovations.

Below is a flow chart demonstrating the process UIRF takes to commercialize new innovations.

UIRF's commercialization process, small image for each step of the process with arrows in between. Detailed text for each step can be found below on this page.

Our Process

Technology developed at the University of Iowa is typically basic research.  Additional investment beyond the research, both in dollars and diligent effort, is often needed to move the technology from the university to the marketplace. The first part of this process involves careful review by UIRF and investment in intellectual property protection through patent applications or copyright filings to protect the technology. In addition, UIRF will seek external partnerships to further the commercialization effort for selected technologies. Please review below to learn more  or reach out to a licensing staff member.

UIRF Commercialization Process

Innovations emerge from the research you conduct at the University of Iowa. When your research results point to a commercial application, we encourage you to submit an invention disclosure or reach out to the licensing staff


UI faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to disclose their inventions to UIRF as early as possible. A good rule of thumb is to disclose prior to a public disclosure, such as the publication of an article, conference abstract, or presentation. If you discuss an invention (or idea for an invention) in public, that can affect the ability to secure intellectual property (IP) protection. If you have excerpts from a grant application or a draft manuscript, you can include those with your disclosure. If you need help submitting your disclosure, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our licensing staff.

Once you submit an invention disclosure form to UIRF, our licensing staff will review the documents you provided. They will schedule a meeting with you to discuss key aspects of the technology, and work with you on an IP and commercialization strategy. After the initial meeting, the UIRF team will conduct an IP and market review to begin to evaluate whether the invention can be protected as IP and whether the invention has commercial potential. 

The patent process--from filing to issuance--can take many years and not all disclosed inventions will require patent protection. For example, most cell lines, antibodies and mouse models do not require patent protection to proceed with commercialization. If patent protection is appropriate for your invention,  UIRF will rely upon you and any of your co-inventors to work with our team and the patent attorneys UIRF has hired to write and file the patent application on your invention.

Copyright protection exists automatically for software and other creative works.  An author is anyone that created the work; for example, a student who wrote part of the code for a much larger program can be an author, and UIRF can help you and your colleagues determine who should be included as an author of the copyright.

Once the team has reviewed the disclosure form and has identified evidence of the commercial potential of your invention, UIRF will market the technology to potential industry partners. This process involves providing suggestions and feedback to the licensing staff member working with your innovation as they draft marketing materials and build a list of potential industry partners to contact. The goal of marketing is to find an industry partner that is capable of furthering development and commercialization of the invention. It may take time and several interactions before we find the right partner.

Active involvement from inventors can significantly improve the chances of finding a licensee. Once interested companies are identified, the inventor is the best person to describe the details of the invention and its technical advantages. Typically, companies are most interested in licensing if their researchers and business development staff understand and feel confident in the research you have conducted at the University.

Companies may enter into a license agreement, which provides a company the right to commercially use intellectual property such as a patent or a copyright. The agreement spells out the financial and legal terms under which the University grants the company rights to commercially use this IP so as to benefit society and the general economy.

Alternatively, companies may elect to obtain an option agreement. An option agreement provides a company a time-limited right to obtain a full license agreement. Options are typically used in instances where the company would like to do further research and development to evaluate the technology prior to committing to a full license agreement.

Technologies can be licensed by an existing company or a start-up company created to commercialize the technology. Faculty start-ups can work closely with the UI Ventures team to form their new company and to determine the best path forward for commercialization.

If you are interested in learning about UI technologies available for licensing, please visit our portfolio or contact the UIRF licensing staff.

The University of Iowa is committed to making sure new innovations are ultimately made available for the public good and benefit of society. In addition, many grants-such as those from federal institutions and many non-profit organizations-require that inventions developed using the funding are made available to the public. To address this, license agreements will have several milestones that a company must meet during the commercialization period to ensure that the UI’s mission and grant compliance is achieved. As most University inventions are disclosed at an early stage, development can be a lengthy process and it may take many years until the technology reaches the market.

License agreements contain financial terms that are designed to prompt technology development and generate revenue. Out of this revenue, UIRF will first recover the expenses incurred in obtaining the licensed patent(s), and UIRF may need to make payments to other institutions if, for example, you have co-inventors from another university.  Remaining revenue is shared among the inventors, the inventors' departments and colleges, a “Research Enrichment Fund” managed by the Vice President of Research, and UIRF. Specific information on revenue distribution can be found in the UI IP Policy or on our UI Policies and Procedures page.