There’s a mentality change at Kansas University to aggressively encourage faculty entrepreneurial endeavors.
The efforts are spearheaded by Julie Goonewardene, hired in January for the newly created position of associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship.
“We used to farm. We’re now hunting,” she said.
Goonewardene said her main focus is making sure the people of Kansas benefit from the work of KU faculty.
“Trying to take the world-class science or discovery that’s done at KU and making it into the marketplace to better people’s lives,” she said.
There’s a variety of options for commercializing KU research, Goonewardene said — everything from faculty starting new businesses to selling patents on discoveries.
“Depending on what’s the best home for (the research),” she said.
Currently, such efforts bring in about $1 million each year — which is usually split among the researcher, the researcher’s department, and KU in general.
Cory Berkland, KU professor of chemical engineering and pharmaceutical chemistry, said he’s been a beneficiary of Goonewardene’s work.
Goonewardene’s office has helped Berkland establish a commercial partnership with Conoco Phillips for nano-technology research Berkland’s done at KU.
Berkland praised Goonewardene’s “incredible network of people” and willingness to “buck the status quo.”
Goonewardene came to KU from the Purdue Research Foundation, where she served as director of business development. Prior to that, Goonewardene founded her own company, which went public, followed by business consulting work.
The best part of the job, Goonewardene said, is knowing that important research done by staff actually helps the public that funds such work.
“If I do my job well, there’s a shot at making someone’s life better,” she said.
Goonewardene has some lofty goals: She wants KU to be mentioned as a national higher education leader in entrepreneurship.
KU can get there, she said.
“I think KU has a huge number of assets,” she said. “The future looks very bright.”