Kara Strickland is an Intellectual Property Advisor at Memorial University. Before joining the Research Innovation Office in 2017, she worked with the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation and the Research and Development Corporation. Her previous work included facilitating funding for industry-relevant academic research and start-up companies. Kara’s education includes degrees in Computer Science and Commerce from Memorial, and she is working towards a Master of Technology Management. (RIO Office website here) (Alternate email here)
What did you do before you joined Memorial TTCO?
I’ve worked in the world of research for most of my career. Before working for Memorial, I was with the Research and Development Corporation (RDC), which was a crown corporation that supported academic and commercial research projects.
I worked there from 2010 to 2017 and joined Memorial’s Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office (TTCO) after the RDC was brought into government.
I really enjoyed my job at RDC because I had so much exposure to research projects and researchers in the province. Through RDC, I got to know so many researchers and departments at Memorial, which made for a very easy transition once I came to the TTCO.
Tell me about your role with Memorial TTCO.
My official title at the TTCO is Intellectual Property Officer. What that means is, I work with researchers who have identified a piece Intellectual Property (IP) and help them map out their path towards commercialization.
[The researcher will] disclose to our office what they’ve created, and I help them find the path where they can get it into a company’s hands, collaborate, licence, or together we might decide best path to commercialization might be to publish. Every project is different.
And if we decide that that the commercialization path needs IP protection, I would work with the research team to prepare the necessary information and work with patent agents to move it forward.
I also help many of our amazing start-ups that stem from Memorial’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship Training Program, and Memorial’s tech incubator, Genesis. I provide them with information about intellectual property, connections with researchers, and assistance with collaborating with the University.
What are the misconceptions around IP and IP protection?
A lot of people dismiss it. They end up creating their start-up and think, ‘I have this great idea and I’m going to run with it’, which is fine, but they need to make sure they are not infringing on someone’s IP, IP that someone else has already protected. It’s better to know about that up front (do your research!) rather than wasting three or four months before having to stop.
At Memorial, we also have a creator-inspired IP policy which means that the ownership of intellectual property is with the creators of the intellectual property (subject to certain encumbrances). Memorial and our office are really invested in moving great ideas towards opportunities, even if we are not involved in the commercialization activities.
What do you do to ensure your researchers/students IP is protected?
We would give them critical information so that they can figure out what works best for their idea. Otherwise, you can waste a lot of time and not have the ability to commercialize.
I’ve seen many instances where students have spent months on their project and realize within five minutes of meeting me we could have suggested a different direction that may have been a lot easier or would have led to the right connections or protections to move forward with commercialization.
We provide the resources and guidance so they can make the best decisions.
If you could tell your researchers one thing, what would it be?
Come and talk to us. When we are giving IP presentations on campus and online, the information is very generic. But if we start talking with you one on one, we can figure out exactly what your IP is and help you map a more personalized road to commercialization. The earlier [you] talk to us, the better. We can help find funding and industry partners and other connections so there are a lot of great reasons to come talk to us first.
How does being part of the SB network support this process?
The supports through Springboard Innovation Mobilization (IM) program are critical to helping move an idea towards industry. If I am meeting with someone and we say ‘there are these three steps we need to take before we work with a company,’ then we can tap into Springboard’s Proof of Concept program. Or, if they identify something and say, ‘if we have this patented, we can move forward,’ we have funding resources for that.
Springboard is always top of mind for us as one of the first ways that we can move IP forward. From there, we can find other funding supports, but Springboard helps us fill that crucial gap in the beginning.