Welcome to the future. We have here a Bypass Dome that can solve underwater oil spills, Self Healing Concrete, a Force Balanced Robot and, among other innovations, a calendar that schedules your week for you.
These are just some of the innovations in TU Delft’s Patent Portfolio, an online catalogue of some of the most cutting-edge work done by TU employees. The Patent Portfolio started in 2006, as a way of showcasing inventions that were awaiting patents but had not managed to garner enough industry attention. “We take inventions that have potential and write about them in a manner that is interesting even to non-technical people. There’s a teaser on the website, and interested parties can download a more detailed PDF,” explains Annegreeth Lameijer, Intellectual Property Manager, Valorisation Centre, TU Delft. The aim is to get funding parties, big businesses and entrepreneurs excited about inventions with business potential. The website also showcases some of the university’s successful patents as well as those innovations presently under patent review.
The valorisation process is time-consuming and Lameijer explains that having a specialised office is very important. “Managing patents requires specialised knowledge. The postal office will probably tell you that we give them the most incoming mail, that’s the amount of paperwork involved,” she laughs. Despite the time and postage, patents are beneficial for the university. Protection of intellectual property stimulates research and protects the work of those employed by TU.
“Although the process of applying for a patent is time consuming, slow and bureaucratic, it is an interesting process to go through as an engineer and an entrepreneur,” says Michel Boerrigter, who completed his MSc in Industrial and Design Engineering from TU Delft. Boerrigter and his business partner, Jasper Hartong, have a pending patent application that is part of TU’s portfolio. Their company, Calendar 42, provides an internet application based on their innovation. “We take procedural steps from static planning towards a fully dynamic and real time system,” explains Boerrigter. Their app combines personal date management with complicated systems such as HR planning, logistics and even public transport.
Curiously, Boerrigter is a believer in open source and open knowledge and adds that given the rate of innovation in the internet domain, applying for or owning a patent doesn’t necessarily give you an edge.
“However, as we see at the moment in patent wars between the tech giants (Google, Facebook, Samsung, Apple, etc.) a strong patent portfolio can be of high importance.”
The portfolio isn’t limited to software. The office has submitted a patent for a robot which can counterbalance itself against vibrations, called the Delta Robot. Other patents include a new algae biofuel, a balloon that stops bleeding during surgery and a new process for separating zirconium and hafnium. They are even working on a patent for a new saxophone mouth piece which is manufactured using 3D printing.
Lameijer has a word of caution for eager inventors: “Patents are not always guarantors of success in the business world. Only once in a while is there an innovation that is also financially viable”.
First published in TU Delta on March 18