Auburn University chapter of National Academy of Inventers holds annual luncheon

AUBURN UNIVERSITY –The Auburn University chapter of the National Academy of Inventors, or NAI, held its fourth annual luncheon April 17 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.

The keynote speaker was Samuel Bonasso, a registered civil engineer, entrepreneur and inventor and public servant. Bonasso was formally the Secretary of Transportation for the State of West Virginia and acting administrator for the U.S. Department of Transportation. The inventor of Mechanical Concrete, Bonasso holds five U.S. patents and is the president and founder of The Reinforced Aggregates Company located in Morgantown, West Virginia. His talk, “This is it! The Realities of Entrepreneuring and Invention Commercialization.” was very well received by the attendees.

John Mason, vice president for research and economic development, opened the luncheon with comments on how Auburn University recognizes the importance of commercializing technologies generated from the research enterprise, and the potential impact on local and regional economic development. He also noted that commercialization has become a major thrust by most research universities.

At the luncheon, John Weete, acting assistant vice president for technology transfer and commercialization, presented the Excellence in Innovation Award for 2013, an honor from the Office of Technology Transfer given to an Auburn University inventor who demonstrates exceptional achievements in innovation and translational research.

This year’s award recipient was Joseph Kloepper, professor of entomology and plant pathology, for his work using beneficial bacteria as microbial inoculants to promote plant growth and provide biological disease control. Biological materials developed by Kloepper are being commercialized by BASF Corporation located in Ames, Iowa.

“The award that Kloepper received this year is a testament to the kind of creative translational research that attracts excellent industry partners, like BASF,” said Weete. Previous winners of the award are Dave Worley, Chris Roberts and Vitaly Vodyanoy.

The NAI is a national organization formed at the University of South Florida in 2010 that has grown rapidly to 113 institutional members including some of the most prestigious research universities in the United States and more than 3,000 individual members.

Individual membership requires affiliation with a member institution and to be an inventor of an issued U.S. Patent. Auburn’s Vodyanoy was inducted as Fellow at the 2014 annual NAI conference at the U.S. Patent Office and was recognized at the luncheon. He joined 244 others that include Nobel Laureates, U.S. Medal of Science winners, National Academy of Science members and other inventors of similar accomplishment.

The Auburn University Chapter Executive Committee has worked over the past three years to find ways to encourage the spirit of innovation on the Auburn University campus. A newsletter has been sent to faculty and plans are being made to bring in additional speakers over the next year that would be of interest to the Auburn University entrepreneurial community. Elected officers for FY2014 are ZhongYang Cheng, president; James Barbaree, president-elect; Bernhard Kaltenboeck, vice president; and Gwynedd Thomas, secretary. The Chapter Executive Committee includes these officers as well as Christopher Easley, Ram Gupta, Tung-shi Huang, William Ravis and Paul Swamidass; John Weete and Jan Thornton are ex officio members. Cheng presented certificates and lapel pens to 10 new members of the Auburn University chapter bringing the chapter to 57 members.

Eligible faculty, students and members of the community interested in joining the Auburn University NAI chapter may contact the Office of Technology Transfer at (334) 844-4977 for membership information.

Contact: John Weete, acting assistant vice president for technology transfer and commercialization, (334) 844-9979 (