Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Does your university need an innovation czar?


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

Universities have been focusing on innovation and entrepreneurship for many years, forming complex research partnerships with major corporations, building incubators and accelerators, hosting an array of competitions, launching and funding start-ups, and encouraging researchers to focus on the commercial potential of their work. On top of all this, some schools — such as Princeton University and the University of California, Berkeley — are trying to unify these efforts and reach an even higher level by creating new academic leadership positions.

Princeton recently appointed Rodney Priestley, professor of chemical and biological engineering, as the university’s first-ever vice dean for innovation, effective February 3, 2020. Meanwhile Berkeley has appointed Richard Lyons, professor of economics and finance and former dean of the Haas School of Business, as its first-ever chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer (CIEO), effective January 1, 2020.

Priestley notes that the philosophy behind his position correlates with the informal motto of the university: “In the nation’s service and the service of humanity.” As vice dean for innovation, Priestley’s focus, he says, will be enhancing innovation and entrepreneurship so the university can share its innovations for the benefit of society.

“There are many things that are moving in a positive direction, so we thought the time was right to provide academic leadership for innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Pablo Debenedetti, Princeton’s dean for research.

Priestley notes that his position will build on what is already an exciting time for innovators at Princeton, where faculty and student start-ups are on the rise. “We recognized the need to create this position to continue to provide for that growth,” he comments. “Also, to steer it in the right direction so it continues to grow.”

It’s a similar view that led to Lyons’ position at Berkeley, where “the ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation has evolved tremendously,” Lyons says. He calls the research-driven entrepreneurship there “a wonderful institutional asset that goes up in engineering or business or law, and we connect them a little bit here and there in an ad hoc way. We have technology licensing, and it’s getting stronger and better. But people wanted to know, where is the remaining headroom? What kind of things can we do to pull [everything] together in fresh ways?”

His new position, he explains, “was set up on an abstract notion that we’re a lot better than we used to be, but we feel like there’s still maybe some boundaries that need to be spanned, and also, some new terrain that we might want to go after.”

The positions at both Princeton and Berkeley are intended to enhance academic leadership in the context of innovation and entrepreneurship. “Princeton is an institution that has very strong faculty governance and initiatives [that] come from the faculty,” Debenedetti states. “[We want to] enhance and build the momentum. For example, we have a very good corporate engagement [group]. We have a very good office of technology transfer, and a lot of the good work that they do is reflected in the statistics on industry funding for research. But providing an academic face and academic leadership makes a big difference on this campus, and that’s what we didn’t have. And so, it will give an entirely new visibility to the activities that are going on and the ones we want to establish.”

Priestley notes his desire to promote greater participation in innovation and entrepreneurship by faculty and students. “One of the things we’d like to do out of this office is more motivation, more encouragement, more recognition that would create, in addition to the activities that are undertaken, somewhat of a cultural change with respect to how we view ourselves in the framework of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Lyons explains that at Berkeley, faculty think of themselves primarily as research scholars. Those who think of themselves as inventors or start-up entrepreneurs remain on the periphery. For many researchers, he notes, commercialization activity “is outside the bounds.” But, Lyons also quickly clarifies, “that’s not true of every faculty member at all. There are a lot of terrific scholars who are terrific entrepreneurs, and their identity bounces back between one and the other…. But there’s still a little bit of, ‘we’re scholars first.’”

Lyons’ goal, he says, is to make it “cooler” to be an inventor at Berkeley, and that task is made easier when it’s driven by an academic, rather than from a TTO or other non-academic unit.

A detailed article on the new innovation leadership positions at Princeton and Berkeley appears in the October issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. For subscription information, CLICK HERE.

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Washington U launches pitch competition to support women entrepreneurs


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

There’s a new pitch competition launching in St. Louis next year to support academic women entrepreneurs, a group that is significantly underrepresented in the commercialization universe. continue reading »

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Improving Data Integrity: Boost TTO Operations and Gain Reliability in Your Invention Management Database


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

Your invention management database is a crucial tool in responding quickly and accurately to both operational and stakeholder reporting needs. But all too often the data TTOs produce falls short of needs and expectations due to errors, inconsistencies, and incompleteness. That’s why Technology Transfer Tactics has scheduled this important distance learning program for November 21st: Improving Data Integrity: Boost TTO Operations and Gain Reliability in Your Invention Management Database.

Regardless of what type of system you use, you will learn how to significantly improve data collection and reporting to enhance your office’s performance and its responsiveness to stakeholders. For complete details and to register, CLICK HERE.  

Also coming soon:

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MIT undergrads now required to sign IP agreement prior to sponsored research


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is bolstering a policy that assigns the university ownership of intellectual property developed by undergrad students participating in sponsored research projects. continue reading »

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Purdue researchers develop sensors to detect and prevent turbine engine failure


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

Researchers at Purdue University have developed a monitoring system that could prevent disastrous failures in gas turbine engines. continue reading »

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U Buffalo start-up raises nearly $1M to advance blood test that detects brain aneurysms


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

A University at Buffalo (UB) start-up has raised nearly $1 million to commercialize a low-cost blood test that could help prevent brain aneurysms in high-risk patients. continue reading »

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Georgia State researchers develop technology to enable noninvasive testing of early-stage liver disease


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

Researchers at Georgia State University (GSU) have developed a safer, more sensitive contrast agent for MRI tests that may provide the first noninvasive method for detecting and diagnosing early-stage liver diseases such as liver fibrosis. continue reading »

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Royalty Rates for Medical Devices and Diagnostics


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

Royalty Rates for Medical Devices & Diagnostics features dozens of real-deal royalty rates along with technology descriptions, licensor and licensee, and transaction background and history. Technology categories include:

  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Imaging Equipment
  • Blood Testing and Safety
  • Wound Treatment
  • Cancer Detection
  • Surgical Devices
  • Cardiovascular Devices
  • And more…

The reference also features guidance on how royalty rates can best be determined and addresses topics affecting royalty rates such as exclusivity, naked patents, and licenses that include know-how and up-front payments. Also included is a discussion on how to use a discounted cash flow analysis to determine a royalty rate, as well as guidance on what not to do when determining a royalty rate. Royalty Rates for Medical Devices & Diagnostics is a one-of-a-kind resource that reports all available compensation terms from scores of completed medical device license agreements and court decisions, gathered from more than 20 years of research by respected valuation and royalty rate expert Russell Parr.

For complete details, CLICK HERE.

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U Bristol researchers developing diagnostic technology that “sniffs” out diseases


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

Researchers at the UK’s University of Bristol are developing a device that mimics the acute sense of smell possessed by dogs and other mammals, with a goal of sniffing out the faint chemical signatures of chronic diseases. The technology may also have significant industrial applications. continue reading »

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Rutgers, U of Kentucky and U of Louisville selected as commercialization hubs under NIH REACH program


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2019

Rutgers University, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville have been selected for the Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs (REACH) program by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). continue reading »

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‘Executives into Business’ program offers pay linked to key start-up milestones


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 30th, 2019

Northern Accelerator — an innovative partnership among a network of universities in England’s North East — Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland — is driving a stepchange in research commercialization. Connecting academics and business leaders and providing funding and business support, it’s accelerating the translation of outstanding research into commercial opportunities, forming sustainable businesses and creating more and better jobs. Newcastle’s ‘Executives into Business’ program is a core contributor in those efforts.

The program addresses two key stumbling blocks often confounding university start-up creation efforts — finding quality leadership, and the related ability to secure investment.

Newcastle adopted an ‘acceptable management solutions’ policy five years ago. To spin out a business, one of the following solutions must be adopted:

  1. One of the founder academics chooses to leave the employment of the university to become CEO or equivalent of the spin-out and the university agrees that the academic has the necessary skills to be a success in that role; or
  2. The founder academics continue to pursue their academic careers together with an agreed upon (time and terms) involvement with the spinout. The university, in consultation with the academics, identifies and recruits an external CEO.

While the second option was much preferred, funding restrictions meant universities traditionally attracted executives to spin-outs through ‘sweat-equity,’ providing shares in the business for time invested, which is a viable option only for a few candidates.

In the Executives in Business program, Newcastle and its Northern Accelerator partners overcome this problem by offering the executives remuneration in addition to traditional ‘sweat equity.’ The model has proved highly successful, attracting a strong pool of candidate executives from an international base, bringing a diversity of approaches and expediting access to investment.

Under the model, financial reward is available to executives for achieving key deliverables — for example, business plans, commercial contracts, or investment secured — which de-risks their participation. Used alongside sweat equity, this has broadened the candidate pool, improving early-stage access to experienced, high-quality management, which in turn has improved investment readiness.

Through active networking, Northern Accelerator has attracted executives from beyond the region and from outside of the university innovation environment. Potential executives register their interest online via a Dynamic Purchasing System hosted by one of the partner universities. “We look for candidates to articulate their relevant experience, and they are then approved to join the ‘Executives into Business’ candidate pool,” says Roy Sandbach OBE, chair of Northern Accelerator’s Advisory Board.

When a spinout opportunity arises, it is shared with the candidate pool. Candidates can then bid for the opportunity, and applications are reviewed by a panel including tech transfer experts from the relevant university and the academic founder. Northern Accelerator’s funding allows the program to offer executives up to £30,000 in addition to shares in the business, payable on achievement of key milestones.

A detailed article on the Executives into Business program appears in the October issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. For subscription information, CLICK HERE.

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Penn start-up raises $74.8M in IPO to advance T cell therapies


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 30th, 2019

A University of Pennsylvania (Penn) start-up has raised $74.8 million in an initial public offering (IPO) to commercialize T cell therapies that fight autoimmune diseases. continue reading »

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