AUTM Updates

More Than $100 Million in NSF ART Funding Puts Tech Transfer in National Spotlight

Academic technology transfer is in the national spotlight following the announcement last month of the 18 academic institutions selected as the inaugural recipients of Accelerating Research Translation (ART) awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

With more than $100 million committed to bolstering awardees’ ability to commercialize researchers’ innovations, tech transfer leaders at those universities can’t wait to start implementing their multidisciplinary teams’ strategies for increasing invention disclosures, licenses and socioeconomic impacts.

“The NSF ART grant has generated significant visibility and excitement within Clemson University among leadership and the research enterprise,” said Chris Gesswein,  Executive Director for the Clemson University Research Foundation, which manages technology transfer for ART awardee Clemson University. “It has also provided a timely vehicle to bring together multiple recently launched efforts related to our university strategic plan’s emphasis on innovation across student experience, research and delivering impacts for South Carolina and beyond.”  

Each ART awardee team will receive up to $6 million over four years to identify and build upon academic research with the potential for technology transfer across multiple scientific disciplines, particularly among underrepresented demographic groups. Each awardee institution will benefit from having a partnership with a mentoring academic institution that already has a robust ecosystem for translational research.  

Rick Smith, Director of the Office of Technology Transfer at ART awardee Lehigh University, said he and his colleagues are looking forward to learning from mentor Carnegie Mellon University about cultivating an entrepreneurial perspective among researchers.

“Carnegie Mellon is a rockstar in commercialization,” Smith said. “A part of being good at translational research and commercialization involves faculty with an entrepreneurial mindset, a desire to benefit society through their research and the ability to look at the big picture. Carnegie Mellon’s faculty, and its students, think this way.”

The program will allow Clemson’s team to further strengthen an already close relationship with its ART mentor institution, North Carolina State University, Gesswein said.

“We are keen to learn from the collective group’s experience in developing multiple funding mechanisms to de-risk and advance technologies at specific critical points in the “valley of death,” their intentional engagement of alumni and external stakeholders to serve as technical advisors and business mentors, and finally, their role as a Partner Institution within the NSF Mid-Atlantic I-Corps Hub, having run NSF I-Corps regional training program since 2017,” he said.

Helping awardee institutions navigate the “valley of death” between academic research and commercialization of inventions for the benefit of society is a key objective of the ART program.

“Large companies are very risk averse, so when we get the opportunity to speak with one about a technology, they always ask about specific data or working prototype in the field. We may have some very groundbreaking technology, but it needs to be proven out, this grant and mentoring with Carnegie Mellon will help us achieve these milestones,” Smith said. “Market size plays a major part in the company’s decision too. If I had a technology that addressed a problem in a $50 billion market, that might make them take a risk on the technology, but it still needs to be proven that it works beyond the lab.”

Importantly, only certain types of institutions—those who will benefit most from additional support to expand their research translation capacity—were eligible for these awards, to be consistent with the Planning and Capacity Building section (10391) of the CHIPS and Science Act. AUTM leadership worked extensively to get 10391 included in the legislation. 

“AUTM has fiercely advocated for Section 10391 of the CHIPS and Science Act because we understand the importance of fully resourcing technology transfer offices to maximize the development of early-stage innovations into the products and services of tomorrow," said AUTM CEO Stephen J. Susalka, PhD. “The ART Program is an excellent example of focused investment under that Section – for the benefit of us all.”  

To read more about the awards and see the full list of awardees and mentor institutions, visit