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Cal Poly research brings in big grant money and patents 

Millions of dollars in external funds poured into Cal Poly last year, and it’s all thanks to professors and other employees, according to the university.

That money includes $26 million in grants awarded during the 2014-2015 academic year, which were used for various research programs and resulted in four patents.

According to Dean Wendt, the university’s dean of research, the university had 570 externally funded research projects during the last academic year, the most in the institution’s history. That funding paid for $400,000 in tuition, fees, and scholarships; purchased more than $700,000 in equipment and facilities improvement; supported the wages of 65 staff; and paid 700 students more than $1.7 million in wages for doing the research, Wendt said.

“Research by our faculty created robust learning opportunities for our students; improved Cal Poly’s academic reputation among universities, agencies and industry; and taught students that they can Learn by Doing through research,” Wendt said at a Nov. 10 on-campus event. 

The funding comes from a variety of sources, including foundations, public agencies, and private industry and is used for research that can lead to new products, technologies, or services. Those can be patented, and commercialized through licensing agreements with private industry, according to Jim Dunning, a manager for Cal Poly’s technology transfer program. 

Recent patents include a food “anti-browning” composition developed by Cal Poly Professor Wyatt Brown and Lab Technician Jim Green from the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences; and CubeSat, a nano-satellite technology that piggybacks off the launches of larger satellites and will be included in a Mars launch mission slated for 2016 from Vandenberg Air Force Base developed by Professor Jordi Puig-Suari and Austin Williams of aerospace engineering. 

Cal Poly currently has 22 patents and 13 patents pending. The university obtained an estimated three to four patents a year for the last five years, according to Dunning. 

“We look forward to enhancing undergraduate research and expanding, over time, research and creative activities with our master’s students,” Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong said in a recent press release. “Our researchers are leading the way. They’ve been pathfinders.” 

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