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North Carolina State Uses Data Analytics To Identify Prospects for Research Investments

North Carolina State University has begun using data analytics software from IBM to identify potential investors for its technologies and scientific advancements. The university is applying the analytics technology to search through massive amounts of Web data, such as blogs, forums, reports, industry related news sites, and government Web sites to produce a short list of potential investors. By streamlining the matching process, the institution is looking to speed up commercializing of inventions. Over the last five years, the institution has spun out 23 new startup companies and currently holds 688 patents with another 176 under review.

The three analytics applications in use include IBM BigSheets, a part of IBM's InfoSphere BigInsights portfolio, a software engine that lets a user extract, annotate, and uncover insights from massive data sets through a Web browser; IBM LanguageWare, a text analytics tool for uncovering unstructured data contained in text documents, Web site content, and enterprise applications; and IBM Cognos Content Analytics, a program for accessing and analyzing volumes of unstructured content. These applications run on an IBM distribution of Apache Hadoop, an open source application for doing distributed computing.

As IBM explained in a statement, the commercializing of new technologies is a multi-phase process that involves matching academic research with potential investors and then working with the inventors to provide counsel regarding patents and copyright to assist in determining the most effective methods to take the inventions to market. A challenge in this process is sorting through data to uncover potential investors and partnerships.

For example, a team of researchers at NC State is investigating new strains of Salmonella for use in vaccines. As a test of the new technology, the university used IBM's tools to analyze 1.4 million Web pages, including opinion blogs, social networks, and documents over the course of a week to find relevant details and ultimately identify business prospects for growing the project. Prior to the use of IBM analytics, this process would have taken months and involved dozens of people clipping newspaper reports, visiting Web pages, making telephone calls, hiring translators, and then trying to figure out a way to compare the results.

"In our pilot project, IBM Big Data analytics allowed our team to understand the potential opportunities for our research projects, while at the same time reducing the tedious workload of finding potential investors," said Billy Houghteling, director of the Office of Technology Transfer. "This project allows us to concentrate on those activities of highest value and payback for the university." Faculty and MBA students in the College of Management and the Center for Innovation Management Studies are part of the team working with Houghteling on this project.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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