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.