UNT’s Research Commercial Agreements (RCA) unit within the Division of Research and Innovation began its first year of operations in FY 2020. The restructured area combines the research contracting function of the division with the commercialization unit, providing a single point of interaction for research connected to sponsors, licensees and collaborators not involved with federal grants. The base year of all new organizations offers new challenges and opportunities, but having that base year occur in FY 2020 during the global pandemic has allowed RCA to make bold changes and reap positive results.
Even with sheltering in place and working remotely, the RCA team was able to achieve a banner year for commercialization: 12 licenses (our highest amount to date), 42 disclosures (slightly down but still four times our industry expectations) and our largest single transaction to date: LaCore Nutraceuticals’ $1 million gift, including a $500,000 five-year sponsored research agreement, five-year lease to Inspire Park, internships for UNT chemistry students and a license option for a drug delivery technology. All of these were accomplished during a year marked by the pandemic.
Contracting has become a powerful asset for UNT. Working remotely has made the team utilize technology and effective triage techniques to ensure we could keep projects funded during the growing uncertainty of the year. These techniques resulted in a much better work flow for the unit compared to initial processes. Those processes have been replaced with a remote work philosophy that allows for faster review and turn-around of contracts and is seemingly far faster than peer institutions. The unit’s mission to increase transparency and provide constant reporting to PIs and deans became an internal tool to reduce all of the time between steps, allowing for fast, yet the same high-quality professionalism and service in contracting.
Most importantly, FY 2020 is a base year, not the end year. The progress RCA has done to make processes better, increase licenses and build relationships both on and off campus is akin to a long-term investment portfolio. It was a momentous year, and the unit is expecting growth in each year to follow to create a lasting impact for the long-term success of UNT.