The Buckeye IP Vault is an online marketplace for Ohio State’s software, apps, algorithms, copyrighted content and non-exclusive patents — an experimental avenue that the university has created to see if it can get a return on its internal and research investments.
By Adam King
That is, unless your name is Dan Rockwell. His job is to gather all the stray bits of computer software at Ohio State and give it a home — the Buckeye IP Vault. The vault is an online marketplace for Ohio State’s software, apps, algorithms, copyrighted content and non-exclusive patents — an experimental avenue that the university has created to see if it can get a return on its internal and research investments.
All of the intellectual property in the vault will be marketed to the public and related commercial industries. Much of the software will be presented as free with end-user agreements while others will be for sale. Rockwell, program manager of the Software Prototyping Center in the Technology Commercialization Office (TCO), would like to see the latter grow.
“You have algorithms, small programs and small pieces of content,” he said. “They can’t sustain a full-on startup, and they’re hard to direct license because they’re not billion-dollar ideas. They usually sit on the shelf.”
But the first step is getting the word out and identifying what exactly the university has available. The University Code Repository, which the TCO helped launch in November 2013 and is a central platform for the university’s 600 programmers to do their work, will feed Buckeye Vault. As projects are completed, Rockwell can comb through the site and see what is a good fit.
And as Rockwell expands his conversations with faculty and others, he plans to dive down into the work being done. He has come across an application that identifies the 50 best exercises clinically proven to help rehab patients, a WordPress theme built by Ohio 4-H that inspired Buckeye Vault’s webpage theme and MoCK Test, a Spanish-language app that helps students prepare for the medical entrance exam.
Former bioinformatics associate adjunct professor Marcelo Lopetegui created the latter for his home country Chile because there was no similar app that supported his native language. In the first six months, MoCK Test was downloaded 1,500 times and was the second-highest download in the Chilean app store.
“Getting that app into the Apple iTunes store and then listing it on the Buckeye Vault as well was a great way to allow him to get exposure for his creation,” Rockwell said. “But now you’re thinking you’re maybe on to something, maybe exploring doing that app in other languages. Did we grab a market niche worth pursuing there?”
Even if products don’t end up in Buckeye Vault, Rockwell said he and others at the TCO will help developers put their ideas into the marketplace. The TCO worked with computer science and engineering professor Jim Davis to set up his own online store to sell Audiomere’s Polarity Maximizer, an audio plug-in that sound engineers can use for better mic’d audio.
“In commercialization we think about big projects,” Rockwell said. “But you also have to think and invest in the small projects that could net big wins. Sure I think big picture, but I’m also interested in the 90 other things you didn’t tell me about. Buckeye Vault is a way to show off the intellectual property that maybe says we need to do more development on that and allows us to track the interest.”
Rockwell would like to be aggressive and add 15 new products to the vault each quarter. Interest will take off once the store hits about 100 products, he said.
Rockwell also wants to help colleges and units develop their own apps, which could feed the vault over time.
“There are so many groups now wanting to create apps and software at the university, it’s outstretching the capacity,” he said. “There is no one group dedicated to making apps. So the TCO and myself, we’ll show them how to make an app on a lean budget to no budget, what happens when they’re done with it and how to make it stretch further. Getting distance on what you create is really important, especially with budget cuts across the university.”