The image on the left shows the real LANDSAT Satellite image of Toledo and the Lake Erie inlet. The image on the right has been run through the patented Blue Water Algorithm and the areas shown in red indicate high concentration of toxins that need to be treated.

The image on the left shows the real LANDSAT Satellite image of Toledo and the Lake Erie inlet. The image on the right has been run through the patented Blue Water Algorithm and the areas shown in red indicate high concentration of toxins that need to be treated.

Trustees give green light to explore potential of water-testing patent

The University has taken the first step toward the licensing of intellectual property since the creation of the BGSU Research Institute last year.

On Sept. 28, the board of trustees approved the transfer of a patent from BGSU to the research institute for an algorithm that can be applied to images from the LANDSAT Satellite to detect early outbreaks of harmful cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) in lakes and reservoirs.

Dr. Robert Vincent, geology, created the algorithm and developed the method of detection. Vincent has received more than $1 million in research support from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and has many years’ experience in the application of remote sensing technology.

With the transfer, the institute can now license the patent to Blue Water Satellite, Inc., which was created to use the remote sensing method to monitor bodies of water for potentially toxic algal blooms. The company is headed by Vincent, who will be joined by four other employees with a background in sales.

Using the information from Blue Water, reservoir operators can treat outbreaks of algae effectively and efficiently, targeting affected areas. “The beauty is we don’t put someone out in a little rowboat in a reservoir,” the traditional method of monitoring water, Dr. James Smith, vice president for regional development and economic growth, explained to the trustees’ Academic and Student Affairs Committee. Blue Water will sell a monthly subscription service to reservoir operators. The cost of the subscription will be offset by money saved through the resulting reduction in treatment, explained Vincent in materials supplied to the board. There are 152 drinking water reservoirs in Ohio and nearly 12,000 across the United States, he wrote.

Smith added that Blue Water Satellite is receiving a grant from the Regional Growth Partnership to conduct a market survey of the potential for Blue Water. The institute, headed by Dr. John Folkins, hopes to attract investors and either spin off the company or take it public through offering stock in it, Smith said. About $750,000 is estimated to be needed in the first two years to get the company up and running. “Venture capitalists need to see there is research confirming there is a market for this service,” Smith told the committee. “If the survey doesn’t show potential, we’ll pull back.

“This is a really great opportunity to take intellectual property created here at the University and license it commercially,” Smith said.

In other action, the trustees:

• Approved a six-year capital budget request to the Ohio Board of Regents. For fiscal years 2009-10, the University is asking for a little over $6 million for the planned Wolfe Center for the Arts, and $6,749,000 for academic building rehabilitation and other auxiliary improvements. Another $7,250,000 for building and auxiliary improvements would come from University-generated funds. In both 2011-12 and 2013-14, the request is for $12,865,000 in state funding for academic building rehabilitation and other improvements, with $7,250,000 and $11,590,478, respectively, to be generated by BGSU.

• Approved giving President Ribeau and Chief Financial Officer Sheri Stoll authority to accept insurance claims settlements on behalf of the University, as required by the insurance pool the University participates in with other members of the Inter-University Council.

• Approved a $50 application fee from students planning to study abroad.

Updates heard
The trustees also heard an update on the strategic planning process requested from each state institution by Eric Fingerhut, the regents’ chancellor (who will be on campus Nov. 7 and 8). Initial plans must be submitted in December, which is much faster than one would wish, said Provost Shirley Baugher, but “the energy and commitment from deans, chairs and directors has been phenomenal,” she said.

Each college must submit its draft plan to President Ribeau by Dec. 1, and then the plans must be synthesized with other University documents such as the Academic Plan and articulated with the state’s framework. Being looked at, Baugher said, are “foundational excellence,” or programs that are basic across all colleges, and signature programs, or those that cross disciplines and set the University apart. The results will help define each institution’s “centers of excellence,” as part of the state plan, Ribeau said. He has appointed a work committee to help move the process along. The effort is “tracking well,” he said. “They’re asking the right questions,” he said, adding, “even if it weren’t a master plan process required by the state, this is something we should be doing—though maybe not this quickly.”

Efforts are also under way to revise and refine the University’s mission statement to more specifically state what differentiates BGSU, the Academic and Student Affairs Committee heard.

In the same committee meeting, Thomas Trimboli, University general counsel, and Marshall Rose, director of the Office of Equity and Diversity, discussed the possible addition of “gender identity and expression” to the University’s policies against bias.

The Faculty Senate, Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Student Senate have all requested that BGSU modify its policies to prohibit discrimination and harassment based on sexual identity or gender expression, in addition to race, sex, religion and other characteristics. Trimboli explained that in legal precedents, gender expression has been interpreted not as the actual sex of the people in question but how they did or did not conform to traditional expression of their gender.

Rose said that while his office does and would accept cases where someone feels discriminated against on those bases, he would like to see the language inserted in BGSU policy to make it more explicit and to “clarify the scope of our anti-discrimination coverage.”

October 1, 2007