Some of this month’s worth-reading items relate to technology transfer activities in Washington as well as to efforts on the home front. Plus we have a fun little history lesson from my alma mater.
Improving Technology Transfer at Universities, Research Institutes, and National Laboratories: On July 24th, the U.S. House’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology, which is part of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, held a hearing that was chartered to discuss draft legislation: the Innovative Approaches to Technology Transfer Act of 2013. The Act would dedicate a portion of Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program funding to award grants for innovative technology transfer programs at universities, research institutes, and national laboratories. The goal? Improving technology transfer.
Three experts testified:
- Dr. Brian R. Wamhoff discussed his personal experience with receiving proof-of-concept funding as part of his spin-out of a technology he developed while at the University of Virginia to form HemoShear.
- Dr. Elizabeth Hart-Wells described Purdue University’s Trask Innovation Fund, which supports translational/development projects that aim to prove the concept of Purdue technologies.
- Dr. Erik Lium of UC-San Francisco testified on his own behalf to discuss the importance of having the federal government play a role in funding proof-of-concept research.
Even more interesting than their prepared testimony (available by clicking on their names at the hearing’s website) was the ~30 minutes of Q&A that followed and can be heard in the 1-hour archived webcast.
My thoughts on this are as follows:
- It makes sense that the draft legislation proposes using STTR funds for technology transfer activities rather than merely the development of tech transfer programs, as proposed in the Startup Act. In fact, the Lab-to-Market Summit I participated in came to this same conclusion and is recommending a portion of SBIR/STTR funding be specifically allocated to technology transfer (rather than research) activities.
- I agree with all three of them that successful commercialization of federally funded R&D outcomes needs additional funding. These additional funds would help bring embryonic technologies to at least a prototype, which in turn would attract industry and lower the risk associated with commercialization efforts. And an average of $50,000 is not unreasonable.
- I also agree with Dr. Lium when he stated that the value of these grants should be tied to the technology type and the expected milestones.
- Rep. Ami Bera was right that the tax code causes issues for universities wishing to partner with industry/entrepreneurs. Dr. Hart-Wells provided a great response about the “private use in bonded facilities” issue and encouraged consideration of this issue and its impact on technology transfer (listen at the 56-minute mark).
- If Congress is looking for an example to emulate as far as what is required of STTR grant recipients, I recommend they look at ARPA-E’s Technology to Market program and its requirements, summarized in the instructions/templates document.
High Noon for Bayh-Dole: I know I point to Joe Allen‘s posts on IPWatchdog often, but his historical context for many of the issues and proposals now in play is valuable. This missive was in response to Sen. Patrick Leahy’s letter asking NIH to force compulsory licensing of Myriad’s BRCA breast and ovarian cancer genetic test. Sen. Leahy argued that the march-in rights provision of the Bayh-Dole Act are applicable. Allen’s response? Bayh-Dole is not a price-control mechanism. Check out the full post.
- What We’ve Learned from Sequestration from Vanderbilt University discusses their just-in-time model of patenting innovations. (Reminds me of the analysis we did for a client that showed screening technologies before patenting pays off.)
- What Does the AUTM Survey Tell Us? from Emory University discusses the trends evident in the association’s latest licensing survey.
- NH Innovation Research Center (NHIRC) Annual Meeting Highlights from the University of New Hampshire — relating back to the Congressional testimony discussed above — points out that UNH is funding continued technology development at the early stages to help get the technology and startup further along in the process, and therefore improve their chances for success.
Individual Research Labs Developing Web Sites with a Focus on Attracting Industry: This Tech Transfer eNews Blog post, which summarized a longer article in the June Technology Transfer Tactics, featured the efforts of the TTO at the University of Nevada-Reno to turn research labs’ “often staid web pages into powerful marketing vehicles aimed at attracting industry partners and licensees.” The TTO collaborates with labs (the ones that want to participate, that is) to rework their Web sites to attract industry (i.e., providing the info they want/need to see in a non-technical way).
This low-cost effort by the TTO has the potential for great returns:
- Demonstrating that the TTO has value and building a rapport/relationship with a lab greases the skids for future interactions. (Reminds me of the “Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead” article in The New York Times magazine last March.)
- It’s yet another opportunity to educate inventors about tech transfer and how to bring an industry perspective to talking about what their techs/strengths are. (Again, big time long-term benefits.)
- Success with one lab breeds success at other labs, fostering the development of more “champions” that are their focus. (“You can’t get blood from a stone” is always good thinking!)
If your TTO has the skills and expertise required to make this type of support truly effective — dealing not only with the look and language of the site but also SEO, effective navigation, appropriate incoming and outgoing links, etc. — it can be a win-win for your office and the lab. (Read more of our insights on Web sites.)
And finally, just for fun…
Physics and the Birth of the Emoticon: Since I was at Carnegie Mellon University when this happened, I really enjoyed this Symmetry Magazine story about how arranging of punctuation symbols into a face came into being. Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor? : – )
Hope you are enjoying your summer!