Worth Reading: New Reports, Congressional Testimony

Online reading of technology transfer newsThree items in the news during the past few days have caught my attention, and I think you should give them yours. They are a report released June 14th by the National Research Council of the National Academies (NRC), a June 19th Congressional hearing on creative approaches to the Bayh-Dole Act, and a report issued June 20th measuring the economic impact of inventions developed at U.S. universities and nonprofit organizations. (Whew, that’s a busy week!)

1. The NRC’s report Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security was requested by the U.S. Congress to determine how “to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century.” Given the “critical threats and challenges that may seriously erode [our research universities’] quality,” the committee identified its top 10 actions. Recommendation #3 is of particular interest to tech transfer offices, and it’s covered on pages 92–100 of the report (that’s pages 115–123 of the PDF, which is available electronically at no charge):

Strengthen the business role in the research partnership, facilitating the transfer of knowledge, ideas, and technology to society and accelerate “time to innovation” in order to achieve our national goals.

The report calls for academia-business relationships that are peer-to-peer rather than customer-supplier, with collaboration in areas of joint interest, and for universities to “improve management of intellectual property to improve technology transfer.” Focusing on IP patenting, licensing, and R&D partnerships, the report recalls an earlier NRC report Managing University Intellectual Property in the Public Interest that “suggests good practices for universities to follow… [and] recommends that universities take steps to streamline licensing negotiations with industry.”

This recommendation, along with the other nine, is accompanied by a list of actions (and their “actors”), budget implications, expected outcomes, and discussion. A Penn State article about the new NRC report quoted the university’s VP for research as saying, “I applaud the committee’s insights and its recommendations.”

2. On June 19th, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing on “Best Practices in Transforming Research into Innovation: Creative Approaches to the Bayh-Dole Act,” with testimony by AUTM® president Todd T. Sherer, who also leads tech transfer at Emory University; the heads of tech transfer at the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan; and the president of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), an independent entity established by the state to facilitate the transfer and commercialization of technology from Maryland’s research universities and federal labs into the marketplace.

An overview of the hearing appears on the Layer 8 blog on Network World, and the subcommittee Web page provides a video as well as a written copy of each person’s testimony (click on their names; this copy of Sherer’s testimony includes the attachments). In particular, Sherer provided a nice “before-and-after Bayh-Dole” analysis as well as AUTM data regarding how university licensing activity has increased in the past 20 years. He also noted various efforts to make tech transfer stronger for the future, including AUTM’s Global Technology Portal (GTP) and several university-based examples, such as the University of California–San Diego’s new Center for Innovative Therapies, the University of Florida’s new Clinical and Translational Research Building, Emory’s in-house patent group, a commercialization and funding model recently established in partnership by Ohio State and Ohio University, and more. He also called the recent 6-year reauthorization of SBIR/STTR “great news” for university-based and other startups.

3. Last week saw the release of The Economic Contributions of University/Nonprofit Inventions in the United States: 1996–2010 from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). As noted in the full report, over the 15-year period, product sales for IP licensed from U.S. universities, hospitals, and research institutes contributed the following, based on “a blend of conservative and reasonable assumptions” (monetary values are in 2005 $US):

  • ~$358 billion of gross industry output (estimates ranged from $199B to $836B)
  • ~$150 billion of gross domestic product (estimates ranged from $86B to $388B)
  • ~1.5 million “person years” of employment (estimates ranged from 900K to 3M)

The analysis was based on an input-output (I-O) approach using various assumptions, which are all fully explained in the report. An AUTM press release about the report noted that a panel of experts at the BIO conference discussed the data, emphasizing the importance of patents and technology transfer efforts.

As I said, those are some noteworthy items. How might this information influence your TTO? What tech transfer news caught your eye this month? Post a comment below or send me a private message via our Contact Us page.

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Posted by Laura Schoppe

One Response to Worth Reading: New Reports, Congressional Testimony

  1. Certainly, you can’t deny — although some in the anti-patent crowd still try — that the potential for profit serves, and will always serve, as a major incentive for innovation. The patent industry is now a significant engine of U.S. economic growth.