In a bid to both fire up innovative output and attract more private funding for research, at least two major American universities have announced big shifts in their IP policies with respect to industry sponsored research. Breaking with past practices that were in line with the provisions of Bayh-Dole in the government-funded research arena, Penn State University (PSU) has decided that industry-sponsored research will no longer come with the mandate that any resulting IP be owned by the university.
Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota (UMN) in Minneapolis has moved to greatly simplify its contracts for industry-sponsored research in a way that removes the up-front quibbling over IP property rights and potential royalties.
While both policies have sparked the usual grumbling about whether business and industry are getting too involved in academic affairs, they are getting rave reviews from the corporate community, and UMN administrators say their new policy has already lured in some new research dollars. Other universities have also taken note of these changes, and some have signaled that they may go in a similar direction. However, administrators at both UMN and PSU caution that they only moved on this issue after careful analysis of their IP-driven revenues and considerable debate, and they advise other organizations to follow a similar path.
The changes at PSU were prompted in part by a top-to-bottom review of all expenditures and revenues at the university, a process designed to identify opportunities for efficiency or savings, explains Hank Foley, PSU’s vice president for research. The data regarding sponsored research agreements stood out. “What I found was that the revenues [from these activities] were appallingly small and the expenditures were, frankly, very high,” he says. “That was my first inkling that there might be an opportunity to make some change.” A detailed article on the policy shifts appears in the February issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, plus hundreds of archived case studies, best practices, and TTO success strategies, CLICK HERE.