Some technologies - especially the most innovative and disruptive - lend themselves to commercialization via a startup company. Penn State has cultivated an entire ecosystem to support inventors wishing to commercialize their research, including the College's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program and the University's Technology Center, which houses the Office of Technology Management, the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership, the Small Business Development Center, Invent Penn State, 1855 Capital, incubator space, and the Startup Leadership Network, a mentor network designed to match new companies with experienced entrepreneurs.

Bringing one's own research to market opens the door for inventors to shape and control the impact of their work. Penn State makes many resources available to support inventors through every stage of this process:

Securing Intellectual Property Rights

The first step is always to evaluate commercialization options, and this can happen at any stage of the research process. Contacts for this conversation include the College of Agricultural Sciences (CAS) and/or the . As part of this initial evaluation, researchers are advised to resolve any potential conflict of interest. The Conflict of Interest Office can both help to develop a plan to manage competing interests or offer statements which formally acknowledge the disclosure and absolve the researcher from further University planning or management.

In accordance with the Intellectual Property Agreement that university employees and graduate students sign, IP developed within the employment relationship with Penn State belongs to the University. Inventors may negotiate for the opportunity to license their inventions back from the University and bring it to market themselves, usually in the form of a new business startup. This is coordinated with the Office of Technology Management.

There are fees associated with licensing an invention back from Penn State. An upfront licensing fee helps to cover the University's patenting expenses, and a royalty fee goes to support the ongoing work of the Penn State Research Foundation (PSRF). A portion of the fees is also shared back with the inventor's home College and administrative unit. The University may also stipulate progress-based milestones and performance requirements as part of the licensing agreement. These milestones are designed to support the progress of commercialization efforts.

Launching a Startup

The work to start a business begins well before the official business is formally established. Before starting a business, potential entrepreneurs should commit to a customer discovery process to establish that there is market demand for the proposed technology, and that it can be offered at a price that target customers will be willing to pay. Penn State offers several programs to assist with this market validation, including the NSF iCorps program and the TechCelerator boot camp.

Early business financing typically comes from the entrepreneur and from funds the entrepreneur can raise from friends and family. There are secondary sources for seed funding that vary in terms and conditions. For guidance in exploring opportunities for early-stage financing, please contact Maria Spencer, the College of Agricultural Sciences (CAS) John and Patty Warehime Entrepreneur in Residence.

Help with officially launching a business is also available through the Penn State Entrepreneurial Law Clinic and the Penn State Small Business Development Center.

Advanced Business Planning & Scaling a Small Business

Growth can create both challenge and opportunity for a small business. As demand grows, entrepreneurs are often faced with the need to make hiring decisions and appoint key leaders who can help scale the business. Penn State developed the Startup Leadership Network to offer University startups an opportunity to network and potentially pair with industry experts for leadership and other expertise.

Small businesses may also contact the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership to access mentors and to apply for seed funding at critical inflection points in their business. Ben Franklin supports its funded businesses (and, in some cases, businesses it hasn't funded) in the areas of accounting, human resource management, and general business management.

When a small business is ready to scale, it may look to 1855 Capital for venture investment and ongoing stewardship of that investment.

Training and Resources

Make use of training and resources available online and in-person:



University Funding

State Funding

Federal Commercialization Programs and Funding


Equity Investment

Incubator and Lab Space

Co-working Space

Explore the Industry License Path to Research Commercialization

Learn more about industry licensing on the "Industry Licensing" webpage.

Back to Landing Page or Get Started