On June 19th, the The House Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing to learn about different approaches universities and nonprofit are taking to transfer the results of federally funded research. This “results transfer” is a product of the Bayh-Dole Act, which was passed in 1980 in order to allow universities, small businesses or non-profit institutions to pursue ownership of intellectual property that resulted from federally funded research.
The hearing covered a number of different areas of focus; reduction of barriers to commercialization, promotion of entrepreneurship in university systems, increasing collaboration between industry and innovators, and linking technology transfer to economic development.
Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL) opened the hearing with a prepared statement that highlighted the economic impacts of the transfer of knowledge from universities to the marketplace, and praised the Bayh-Dole Act for its role in the commercialization of a number of technological advances since its passage in 1980. Rep. Biggert also gave some history about the act, and made mention of the fact that it was passed during an economic recession not unlike the current one, and was originally intended to create jobs and increase US competitiveness through the commercialization of university inventions.
Dr. Todd Sherer, President of the Association of University Technology Managers who was the first to give testimony, praised the Bayh-Dole act as the international standard for technology transfer across the globe. Dr. Sherer emphasized that the Bayh-Dole act has been instrumental in bringing many important discoveries to the marketplace, and has spurred a significant return on investment for federally funded research.
Ms. Catherine Innes, who is the Director of the Office of Technology Development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, gave testimony on how the Carolina Express License agreement has helped the university eliminate barriers to entry for start up companies and fast track them to the marketplace. “UNC focused on finding ways to make the license process faster, easier and more transparent so that the money a company did have could go towards getting the company up and running,” said Ms. Innes.
Mr. Ken Nisbet, Executive Director of the Office of Technology Transfer at the University of Michigan, testified that the University of Michigan has been successful in technology transfer by establishing close relationships with prospective funding partners and understanding the impacts of technology on the region surrounding the University. As a result, the University has been able to report over 300 new discoveries each year, 100 different agreements with industry partners annually, and spin out an average of one start up every five weeks.
Finally, Mr. Robert Rosenbaum, President and Executive Director of the Maryland Technology Development Corporation gave testimony about how university culture can often be an inherent cause of slow technology transfer. He mentioned a number of unnecessary rules and regulations that make it difficult for professors and researchers to bring their discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace, and made it clear that in order to most effectively support technology transfer in universities, there must be incentives to go public, instead of barriers.
Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), testified at an oversight hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee yesterday. In his testimony, Dr. Holdren spoke of the transformative nature of science and technology and its potential for economic growth but also its challenges for public policy.
While the majority of the hearing focused on energy priorities and space science, STEM education and computing did get a share of the attention. In opening testimony and in subsequent answers to questions from several Committee members, Dr. Holdren addressed STEM education by discussing the Educate to Innovate program and the Change the Equation program to increase the number of students who are prepared for and want to study STEM fields in college.
Representative Biggert (R-IL), asked a computing specific question of Dr. Holdren. Rep. Biggert noted that the Administration announced earlier this year a Big Data R&D Initiative. While Rep. Biggert agreed that the research in big data was important, she noted that there needed to be a balance between that and the research into high performance computing in order to fully realize the potential of big data. Dr. Holdren agreed that the future of computing requires both investments in “big hardware” as well as big data and that there were also research efforts underway to reduce the energy needs of high performance computing.
Representative Edwards (D-MD) made a point to say that research isn’t done in stops and starts. She noted that the best thing Congress and the Administration could do would be to give researchers consistency in budgeting for research and that this would also be encouraging to students entering the STEM disciplines.
Dr. Holdren’s written testimony and the archived webcast of the hearing can be found here.
In February,we wrote about the President’s Budget Request for the Department of Energy (DOE) for FY2013, in which he requested an increase of 2.4 percent for that agency’s Office of Science (SCI) and a $456 million increase for SCI’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research program.
In early June, the House took its crack at the agency as part of its passage of the FY13 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, and the message was more decidedly mixed. Despite an allocation for the
E&W bill with room for $87.5 million more spending than FY 12, cuts fell on programs in the Office of Science and on the agency’s ARPA-E program. Overall, Office of Science would see a 1.5 percent decrease in FY13 in the House-approved plan compared to FY12. Within SCI, ASCR managed to hold its ground in the House bill, remaining essentially flat ($442 million) vs FY12 ($441 million…though, when inflation is considered, “essentially flat” means “was cut”). Still, ASCR fared better than the average SCI program and better than the Basic Energy Sciences account, for example, which saw a 1.8 percent cut compared to its FY12 level
Early numbers out of the Senate Appropriations Committee (the full Senate has not yet considered the bill, and likely won’t until after the November elections) are more positive. SCI would receive a 0.7 percent increase under the Senate plan, and ASCR would see 3.3 percent more than in FY13. The ARPA-E cuts approved by the House are completely reversed in the Senate Appropriator’s plan, with the office slated to receive an increase of $53 million (to $300 million in FY13), or a 21.6 percent increase.
There’s a long way to go before these funding levels are finally resolved. Most believe further appropriations actions are likely to be postponed until the lame duck congressional session following November’s elections. At that point, House and Senate conferees will have to meet to work out the differences between the two approaches. As we learned again last year, where that final number ends up is anybody’s guess.
But we’ll have all the details for you here!