Zane Gernhart, PhD, has been appointed as the Executive Director for the NDSU Research Foundation (NDSURF). In this role, Gernhart will collaborate, develop, and advocate for a shared vision that supports commercialization and economic development for NDSU researchers.
As the first full-time executive director of NDSURF, Gernhart’s appointment was approved by the NDSURF’s Board of Directors and he will report to NDSU Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Colleen Fitzgerald. This reporting structure aligns with Fitzgerald's R1 research strategic framework which emphasizes ‘Innovation and the NDSU Research Foundation’ as one of six main focus areas of the plan.
“The Research and Creative Activity office supports NDSU researchers throughout the entire lifespan of their research activities and an important part of this process is commercialization,” said Fitzgerald. “According to the 2022 Heartland Forward report, NDSURF’s ranking was sixth (normalized) in terms of licenses and options issued and 117 overall. Having a strong leader like Zane directing activities will build upon this foundation of success and help guide NDSU inventors when they are ready to commercialize their ideas.”
Along with serving as a member of Fitzgerald’s leadership team, Gernhart will manage the full life cycle of technology transfer activities generated by NDSU inventors. This includes managing, encouraging, and supporting the development, disclosure, and protection of NDSU’s intellectual property, technology transfer, and patent applications. He will also manage the NDSURF intellectual property portfolio and liaise with local, state, regional and national technology organizations. One of his initial tasks will be to develop and implement an NDSURF strategic plan in coordination with the Board.
“NDSU is traditionally strong in technology transfer, and I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of the business of innovation at the institution,” said Gernhart. More than 380 technologies are currently under management; 92 patents have been issued; 27 annual invention disclosures made; 91 active plant variety protections in place; and licensing revenue of over $3.1 million the last two years.
Gernhart brings extensive experience in the research process to his new role, including intellectual property protection and technology transfer activities. Over the past nine years, he has held various positions at NUtech Ventures, the nonprofit commercialization affiliate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and has leadership experience with the Nebraska I-Corps program.
He will serve on the thirteen-member NDSURF Board ex-officio which is responsible for managing and administrating the Foundation and consists of a diverse group of industry and academic leaders.
Established in 1989, NDSURF is an independent, not-for-profit organization that facilitates the transfer of scientific discoveries, technologies, products, and processes from NDSU to the marketplace. NDSURF safeguards and licenses intellectual properties and supports NDSU researchers in forming start-ups. The organization provides industry access to patented technologies to develop commercialization strategies.
Gernhart will begin his new role on July 5.