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Released May 13, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- A new company formed to create opportunities for entrepreneurs at The University of Southern Mississippi will become the commercialization and marketing arm of the university's research foundation.

University officials announced today the creation of Noetic Technologies Inc., which will take the research and intellectual property created at Southern Miss from the laboratory into the commercial sector.

"There is no doubt that Southern Miss excels in education and research," Southern Miss President Shelby Thames said. "Now we have a company in place that will help take that research into the commercial marketplace."

Noetic President and CEO Les Goff said the company has two products to market: all of the intellectual property and knowledge that is original to Southern Miss, and "inorganic" property that has been donated to the university. Goff said the goal is to have the university's intellectual property packaged and ready to go to market, and then plant as many seeds as possible. "You only need a few of them to produce," he said.

The Noetic team, assembled from individuals experienced in commercial ventures, has spent the past few months getting its arms around the university's intellectual property. "We're establishing an inventory and talking to the faculty to get a feel for what we have so we can go out and market our technology," Goff said. "It is not a hard sell because the faculty are well-known in their fields. Southern Miss has a good reputation."

Goff joined Southern Miss as executive director of business development and CEO of Noetic after spending 15 years with GE Plastics. At GE, he worked in product development, held commercial duties in global marketing and led businesses and business startups. Goff has a doctoral degree in polymer science from Southern Miss.

Kelli Booth took on technical marketing for Noetic after working 10 years in the plastic additives group of Atofina Chemicals Inc., where she generated $28 million in sales. Booth graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in chemical engineering.

Vance Flosenzier is the university's director of process technology and the technical director of Noetic. He has more than 16 years' experience in the specialty chemical industry, having worked in research and development, process technology and operations management. Flosenzier previously worked for Atofina Chemicals and Stephan Company. A native of Indiana, he holds degrees in chemical engineering from Purdue University and Northwestern University.

As part of its marketing strategy, Noetic is launching a Web site that describes the university's portfolio of intellectual property. The Web site will give businesses the information they need to contact university representatives with commercialization opportunities. The Web site will also provide tools for inventors who want to learn how to market their products.

"There are a couple of challenges," Goff said. "First, there is no set procedure or clear path to follow. And while some professors have commercial experience, many never have done this. That's where we come in because we all have commercial experience. We are here to connect opportunities with businesses or our external customers with intellectual property."

Entities such as Noetic and the similar Research Technology Corporation at Mississippi State University can play important roles at Mississippi's four comprehensive research universities, said Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA) Vice President for Business Venture Development Jack Harrington. These institutions received more than $242 million dollars in federal research funding in 2001 alone.

"The largely federal funding that goes into university research is the single largest driver of research in our state," Harrington said. "In addition, in utilizing that funding, the research universities are the largest driver of any kind of innovation in Mississippi."

Harrington said that commercializing university research can give the universities a new revenue stream to make up for continually dwindling state funding.

Thames added that with the national trend moving away from fully funded, state- supported universities, companies like Noetic could create a much-needed boost.

"It's imperative that we pursue new support ventures," Thames said.

Professors with hectic teaching and research schedules have welcomed assistance from the Noetic team, and Goff said the faculty have been very receptive to the idea.

"We have six to 10 members who are excited and open to figuring out how to market their ideas. A lot of them have the contacts already, but they don't have the time to market their research."

Goff said establishing Noetic was part of the vision President Thames developed for Southern Miss. "There is a chance to create value and opportunities for Southern Miss, and we are glad to be a part of it," Goff said.

Harrington said companies like Noetic can provide the infrastructure needed to help professors launch successful ventures, and the MTA is there to assist them.

"What we do is help create the network to make that technology a successful technology company. For example, MTA can help locate risk capital, legal assistance and access to business resources.

Harrington said: "When universities commercialize research consistently over time, it creates momentum that helps you access risk capital and bring together the resources you need to build successful companies. When you concentrate that experience in one place, with each company you are better equipped to build the next one."


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May 14, 2004 12:47 PM