UK, Lexmark Form Technology Partnership

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 23, 2020) — The University of Kentucky Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) announces its first-ever license agreement with Lexmark International Inc. involving a project led by Joshua Werner, assistant professor in UK’s College of Engineering, exploring the recovery and recycling of precious metals. This agreement is related to and in support of a framework agreement with Lexmark for sponsored research and professional services. 

Werner is an extractive metallurgist and worked in the electronic materials industry before pursuing his doctorate in metallurgical engineering (metals engineering). The technology to be developed under the project is a method for recovering valuable materials from end-of-life devices (e.g. spent laser printers, batteries) and recycling these materials into new products.

The value proposition to Lexmark in this project flows from the fact that it receives the end-of-life printers and toner cartridges for recovery, which can result in both the extraction of materials that can be sent to recycling as well as toner cartridges that are reconditioned.

Werner began a relationship over two years ago with John Gagel, global senior manager of corporate sustainability for Lexmark, during the 2017 International Forum on Sustainable Manufacturing hosted by UK.

Through a project called SMaRT (Sustainable Materials and Recovery Technologies) led by Lexmark Business Development, Werner and Lexmark began to consider how the cost of recycling circuit boards can be reduced and how a business opportunity might develop around the idea.

“I previously conceptualized a process that would be able to recover gold, copper, and other elements such as nickel and cobalt without the use of harsh acid," Werner said. "This process was something novel and valuable and I was able to work with the fantastic team at UK OTC to protect it.”

With this partnership, UK and Lexmark will be working together to further develop the technology and assess its viability as a sustainable business for recovering valuable materials from end-of-life consumer devices at an industrial scale.

“We’re pleased to be working with Dr. Werner and his team on this project,” said Allen Waugerman, Lexmark president and CEO and UK alumnus. “Lexmark values our long-standing partnership with UK. This SMaRT initiative ties to one of our key values as a company — protecting our environment and improving the communities in which we live and work.”

This project has come to fruition because of the great work of Werner, Peiia Lin (who is pursuing her doctorate with this project), Jack Groppo (College of Engineering, Center for Applied Energy Research), and the Lexmark and UK OTC teams.

“We are excited about this burgeoning relationship and have enjoyed the collaborative approach from Lexmark," said Ian McClure, executive director of UK OTC. "We look forward to a continued partnership that helps apply UK innovation and Lexmark’s business talent and acumen to create useful outcomes. Our UK OTC licensing team and Lexmark’s business and legal teams worked diligently to create a collaborative pathway for IP to be utilized and further developed between the organizations.”

Kim Kluemper, director of UK’s Business Engagement, has also been instrumental in establishing and expanding upon this new UK/Lexmark collaboration. She brought Lexmark in as an industry partner on UK’s proposal to the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center program and has connected Lexmark to more than 20 UK researchers to explore other potential partnerships.

“As established innovation leaders in the Commonwealth and beyond, UK and Lexmark are excited about this project and look forward to working together to build upon our research and commercialization strengths,“ McClure said.

Lexmark is a global leader in the print and imaging industry, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Headquartered in Lexington, it is among the Commonwealth’s larger employers. Combining innovative technologies with deep industry expertise, Lexmark provides smart IoT print devices and cloud-native solutions to customers in retail, financial services, health care, manufacturing, education, government and more. In addition to its industry leadership, the company is recognized for its global corporate citizenship and commitment to sustainability.

The Office of Technology Commercialization is the technology transfer office for the University of Kentucky. The core mission of the OTC is to advance innovation that makes a difference.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.