[Excerpt from The Chronicle of Higher Education]

Sarah L. Kieweg had her own nice surprise when the University of Central Florida contacted her. She understood quite a bit about her father’s pioneering work on artificial intelligence in the 1990s. Still, in 2006, eight years after he died of a heart attack, at age 50, the call from the university came out of the blue: Some of James R. Driscoll’s patents had, at long last, been licensed, and a royalty check was coming her way.

By then a young faculty member herself at the University of Kansas, she cried on the phone, recalls John Miner, the Central Florida (UCF) licensing officer who gave her the news.

It’s the nature of the academic technology-transfer business that many of the inventions born in university researchers’ laboratories can take years to become products. By design, the work is more fundamental than applied.

The experience triggered sweet memories for her. When she was a high-school kid, her father used to pay her $5 an hour to compile data. “I would sit in his office floor and organize his journals,” says Ms. Kieweg, 34. “I remember him showing me this thing called e-mail.”

His inventive spirit extended beyond his university lab. Once, she recalls, he tried to automate the garden sprinkler system by tying it into a small home computer. “I don’t know if it ever worked,” she says.

Brian S. Steinberger, an Orlando patent lawyer who recalls several all-nighters with Mr. Driscoll, working on filings, says his friend would have loved knowing that Central Florida’s (UCF’s) efforts have turned those patents into a windfall for Ms. Kieweg: “His daughter was the pride of his life.”

By Goldie Blumenstyk

For the full story, visit The Chronicle of Higher Education Web site.

Print Edition: Section: Money & Management

Volume 55, Issue 41, Page A1