Iowa State University is home to some of the world’s most inventive minds. These minds have developed eco-friendly lead-free solder for electronics and soybean oil that eliminates trans-fats in fried and processed foods, as well as numerous other ideas to improve the quality of life in Iowa and beyond.

When an innovation surfaces, stands up to rigorous testing and seems poised for the next step, it needs a conduit to take it to the marketplace and put it into the hands of the people and companies that can make it available to society. At Iowa State, that conduit is the Iowa State University Research Foundation (ISURF), now celebrating its 75th anniversary.

ISURF is the second-oldest research foundation in the country. Since its founding in 1938, ISURF has protected the intellectual property of Iowa State researchers and creators through patents and copyrights, but that is only the starting point. 

ISURF helps transform researchers’ ideas into useful and commercially valuable products and services, injecting vitality into our state’s economy. ISURF experts help match inventions and technologies to companies and industries that can use them to the greatest advantage, often realizing a competitive edge.

The foundation plays a pivotal role in the university’s economic development efforts, complemented by a rapidly expanding research park, the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, Extension and Outreach’s Center for Industrial Research and Service, Small Business Development Centers and many other units and initiatives on campus. A new entrepreneur-in-residence at ISURF encourages innovation campus wide. 

The university’s unique relationship with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and the new Critical Materials Institute located on campus gives ISURF the opportunity to help promote outstanding energy and materials innovations. 

Since 1938, more than 4,300 inventions have flowed through ISURF. Earlier this year, all-time royalty income to the foundation, the university and inventors topped $150 million. 

ISURF is among the top 16 percent of U.S. research foundations that are self-sustaining. Some of the proceeds from licensing fees and commercialization of Iowa State inventions are reinvested in the university’s recruitment efforts to help attract the next generation of scientists and teachers, especially those in areas of high impact to the university and to the state of Iowa. 

Iowa State recently committed $4.5 million to multidisciplinary research projects as part of the Presidential Initiative for Interdisciplinary Research. This investment builds new connections and collaborations among our researchers and units that could result in major breakthroughs and more technology transfer at ISURF.

The ISURF board of directors works closely with ISU leaders and academic teams to sharpen the focus of the research enterprise and to increase the momentum to “think big and act boldly” in creating intellectual property and forming partnerships with industry, expanding opportunities for Iowans.

We’d like to celebrate this anniversary by recognizing the important role the Iowa State University Research Foundation plays in moving good ideas into our everyday lives, and in helping Iowa reach its potential for a prosperous future in the innovation economy.

To contact the Iowa State University Research Foundation, call 515-294-4740 or go to, where you can sign up for technology updates in your area of interest.

Steven Leath
President of Iowa State University

Marcia Rogers
President of the Iowa State University Research Foundation board of directors