NASA opens patent library to students for development of new business ideas

NASA is partnering with Hillsborough Community College and the University of South Florida to allow students to view its roster of patents and see what they can turn into business models that solve real-world problems related to the environment, manufacturing, and more.

The program is part of NASA’s Technology Transfer University or T2U program and it’s a huge opportunity that could spark new businesses.

"[It’s] really exciting for us because we are the first community college to be a T2U school in the state of Florida. There’s only two community colleges in the nation to be a part of this opportunity," said Beth Kerly, a professor of entrepreneurship and business at HCC.

HCC will host a three-day event in February called Patenthon to give students the chance to come up with ideas. They will work alongside other local organizations, businesses and community members, including students from the University of Florida and USF.

"NASA’s providing it to students for three years at no cost for them to be able to take these models and see whether or not they work. That’s the value in it, so you’re not having to do the research yourself," said Kerly. 

Over at USF, the patents are part of assignments. Professor Lin Jiang will hear students' presentations on how to put NASA inventions to new uses.

"For the course, I essentially picked a couple of patterns that I found fascinating, also are kind of newer patents for students to analyze," said Jiang, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at USF. "So we always get one or two inventors each semester who can meet with the students to answer their questions and that helped a lot, as well."

Jiang said her students are coming up with creative ideas, and one of them is even in the process of being tested.

"They ended up trying to get their evaluation license from NASA, so this is in the process currently. So eventually they will be able to use, have the right to use the patent to test their business ideas this year," said Jiang.

Teaching business and engineering students, Jiang said she wants to open her students’ minds to the possibilities with patents and how they can take a business model to the next level.

Kerly and Jiang said the partnership with NASA helps students get innovative and see how they can commercialize an invention that has a social impact.