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Partnering With a University Universities have long been centers of innovation. Now, many are partnering with entrepreneurs to commercialize their ideas.

By Timothy Sprinkle

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ah, college--football games, house parties and late-night study sessions. But the nation's campuses are about more than just entertaining the under-21 set; they're also brimming with new research and cutting-edge innovations. Commercializing these discoveries is a challenging niche, for sure, but one that entrepreneur Carl Gibson calls essential.

"After 2000, with the meltdown of the capital market, [big] companies by and large nixed their research arms," says the 46-year-old CFO of Ekips Technologies Inc. in Norman, Oklahoma. "There's just not the kind of funding mechanism in private industry for scientists to be unfettered in their explorations into some of these areas." As a result, he says, universities have stepped in to fill the void.

And Gibson should know, since Ekips itself is the result of a university "spin-out." Founded by University of Oklahoma professor Patrick McCann in 1997, the company today is one of the world's leading producers of health-care-related laser equipment, with 2005 sales in the six figures. Its Breathmeter, for example, is a device capable of diagnosing problems ranging from asthma to breast cancer by analyzing the contents of a patient's breath. McCann developed the technology and then licensed it from OU via technology transfer--the commercialization process for university-owned intellectual property--bringing Gibson on to manage the transition.

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