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North Dakota State considers policy change that would shift royalties away from researchers and towards campuses


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: December 6th, 2017

Higher education leaders in North Dakota are considering changes to a policy that has led to a multi-million dollar boom in technology commercialization at North Dakota State University (NDSU).

Drafted in the 1990s, the North Dakota University System’s policy currently allows researchers at state schools to earn up to 40% of technology licensing revenues, bringing them $3.6 million over the past decade. Now a change is being proposed that would give individual universities more flexibility in splitting the revenues with their researchers. The proposal involves a sliding scale royalty scheme which would reduce the inventor share once a certain amount of revenue is reached.

According to Richard Rothaus, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs with the North Dakota University System, the state’s schools are experiencing budget cuts that make it difficult to maintain costly research programs, and the new policy would help address that issue.

Most of the licensing royalties at NDSU come from plant research, a rigorous field that is more lucrative when practiced in the private sector. Ken Grafton, vice president for agricultural affairs and dean of the College of Agriculture at NDSU, says that the sharing of licensing revenues with faculty helps attract and retain research talent. At the same time, however, researchers have much to gain when royalties go to their universities, such as the hiring of support staff and addition of new lab equipment.

Licensing revenues at NDSU have risen steadily since the mid 1990s, from $331,997 in 1995 to $2.7 million in 2016. The earnings are collected and distributed by the nonprofit North Dakota State University Research Foundation.

Source: The Bismarck Tribune

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