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Examining University Commercialization Efforts

The University of Oregon’s new Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and its mission of “science advancing society” inspired an honors thesis written by a Lundquist College alumnus.

While an undergraduate student at the University of Oregon, Will Paustian ’19 specialized in entrepreneurship and finance while serving as a UO student trustee. His thesis for the Robert D. Clark Honors College examined research universities and their efforts to increase commercialization efforts.

In his thesis “How Emerging Research Universities Have Improved Metrics and Rank through Targeted Commercialization Efforts,” Paustian looked at common indicators and outputs that top universities shared in supporting faculty spinouts, licensing, and general startup activities.

Paustian examined first order output metrics such as license disclosures, patents, startups, and research dollars, along with indicators such as size and standing within the Association of American Universities, a body comprised of 65 distinguished research universities across the United States—including the University of Oregon—that continually advance society through education, research, and discovery.

He then compared three institutions that have significantly improved their national reputation by way of focused commercialization efforts—University of Utah, University of California-Santa Barbara, and University of California-Irvine—and identified similarities as shared best practices.

Paustian’s findings highlighted several top commercialization efforts that the University of Oregon has recently invested in, including translational research grants that support transforming fundamental faculty research or early-stage innovations into more commercially viable products and services or businesses.

“I hope the thesis serves as a conversation starter about some of the things that an emerging research university can do to improve research and commercialization metrics, while decreasing the timeline from innovation to impact,” Paustian said.

—Kate Harmon, Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship