In a bid to boost start-up formation and economic development, the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs has joined with private citizens to create a nonprofit organization, the UCCS Development Corp., which will launch start-ups, participate in public-private ventures, and attract investors.
The newly formed corporation will also focus on entering the growing arena for venture philanthropy — donors who want to invest in university-launched ventures and not just give to a general endowment.
Charlie Sweet, UCCS executive director of strategic planning and initiatives, says he’s not quite sure exactly how the new non-profit will work and what it will accomplish, but the school needs its structure in place when opportunity knocks. “As we look at developing new relationships with business, we need to expand the capabilities to engage in those relations,” Sweet comments.
A big reason for the new organization, he reports, is the limitations on joint venture participation for the state school. For example, the university couldn’t previously hold equity in a firm — even if its professors developed the product – and it couldn’t take investments from outside firms. “It is very difficult to take advantage of opportunities” under those conditions, Sweet says. But a private nonprofit organization escapes those limitations and allows the university to be part of profitable business ventures.
The majority of the new corporation’s board will be private citizens, with a minority represented by UCCS staff. The corporation will have an operating agreement with university, Sweet explains. “It could create a start-up company to support technology, or a limited partnership to develop a private-public partnership — it’s a tool to take advantage of opportunities that might arise,” he observes.
UCCS already had been working on co-development agreements, which encourage businesses to partner by using more liberal IP ownership terms. The new venture goes further in allowing the university to be a business partner. UCCS could earn money in its joint ventures — something especially important as the state reduces higher-education funding.