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New Maryland tenure policy part of statewide push to promote commercialization

By David Schwartz
Published: September 5th, 2012

While most university systems continue to resist formal recognition of commercialization activities when evaluating faculty for tenure, the University System of Maryland has emerged as a leader in that state’s broad effort to promote economic development through academic research.

In April, Maryland’s Board of Regents formally changed its criteria and procedures for promotion and tenure, adding “activities that result in the generation and application of intellectual property through technology transfer.” The new policy is an important part of a multifaceted effort to promote economic growth statewide through technology transfer, according to William E. (Brit) Kirwan, PhD, chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

“Maryland has more R&D per capita than any other state,” says Kirwan. “We have a robust technology sector, particularly in biotechnology and telecomm. However, Maryland ranks very low in the economic impact of that R&D. The economic advantages have been taken out of state.” To better take advantage of the intellectual property being generated in their state, Maryland legislators recently passed two bills to provide critical funding for early-stage university technologies — one is a venture fund of $85 million, and the other is an innovation initiative of $6 million specifically earmarked for research universities.

The system has set of goal of creating at least 325 start-ups by 2020. “In two years we averaged about 35 companies each year systemwide,” says Kirwan, “so we are on track to meet this ambitious goal.”

Along with the recently adopted changes to its tenure policy, the Board of Regents also changed its policy on sabbatical leave for faculty, allowing leave to engage in commercialization activities. The two actions will go a long way toward helping faculty understand that “entrepreneurship shouldn’t have a bad name,” says Gayatri Varma, PhD, executive director of the University of Maryland’s Office of Technology

Commercialization. A detailed article on the tenure policy, including excerpts from policy documents and an analysis of trends in adoption of commercialization-based tenure criteria, appears in the August issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, as well as our entire archive of back issues and our online subscriber resource center, CLICK HERE.

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