Award Gallery

Thomas Kuegler

Award: Regional Appreciation

Year: 2016

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Thomas Kuegler is a consultant to the Griffiss Institute, a Partnership Intermediary of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate in Rome, New York.

In this capacity he was principally responsible for the success of the Directorate’s recent efforts to enhance its technology transfer programs. He went above and beyond expectations in providing a new paradigm for the AFRL’s tech transfer efforts, and was especially effective in inspiring its technical staff to participate in the new process, breathing new life into the Directorate’s intellectual property (IP) portfolio while developing a number of successful new ventures from it.

Kuegler created Wasabi Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that funds and incubates technology startup companies. Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, Kuegler spends his time scouring the East Coast for promising entrepreneurs and their companies. Through his work with Wasabi Ventures, Kuegler is dedicated to liberating technologies from university and government labs for use in the private marketplace. His focus is on people—leveraging local communities, researchers, and entrepreneurs to find market utility and drive commercialization activities for AFRL’s IP.

Because of its proven track record, Wasabi’s Ventures Academy was used as basis for the AFRL spring 2016 Commercialization Academy program, an experiential education and commercialization program that pairs students and business people with federal technologies, with the goal of launching early-stage ventures. The 2016 Commercialization Academy is unique in that it brings in teams of businesspeople who fit one of two categories: they expect that an AFRL-developed technology can be combined with their own invention to make it better, or they envision a product that can be built around intellectual property licensed from AFRL.

In this capacity he was principally responsible for the success of the Directorate’s recent efforts to enhance its technology transfer programs.

Over a dozen potential technology transfer teams invited to the Academy at the start of 2016 and were whittled down to eight. The remaining teams were coached through a disciplined process and ultimately pitched their ideas to a panel of judges and a live audience for cash prizes.

The Commercialization Academy developed by Kuegler is a win-win for the students, budding entrepreneurs, AFRL, and the community. Participants have the opportunity to work with real-world technologies and have unique access to the lab and researchers. AFRL has increased visibility of its portfolio of technologies and other resources, leading to more licenses, better access to talent, and more innovative thinking at the laboratory. The Academy contributed to the development of the researchers involved in the process: They now think more like entrepreneurs! The community benefits through new entrepreneurial ventures, more innovative homegrown talent, and a new channel into a potential gold mine of laboratory technologies previously seen as inaccessible.