Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Comings and Goings


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 23rd, 2020

The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) in Virginia has promoted Robert J. “Bob” Stolle, former state Secretary of Commerce and Trade, as its new president and CEO.

Since its launch in 1985, CIT has functioned as the state’s nonprofit economic development organization for the technology sector. Stolle most recently served as CIT’s senior vice president of policy and regional initiatives, as well as head of its entrepreneurial ecosystems division.

“Ed has had a transformational impact on CIT and the Virginia innovation ecosystem, from launching new innovative programs in technology and industry areas critical to Virginia, to launching the Virginia Founders Fund, to ensuring that Virginia companies continued to receive over $4 million in vital funding during COVID,” says CIT Board Chairman Michael Steed.

Ed Albrigo, who Steed is replacing, comments, “CIT and the new Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA) are in great hands. Bob knows CIT, the VIPA legislation, VIPA budget and the key stakeholders for VIPA and CIT very well. Our communities and CIT staff highly respect Bob. There is no better choice for the new CIT president.”

Gov. Ralph Northam adds, “Virginia’s entrepreneurship community has grown tremendously during Ed Albrigo’s tenure at CIT, and we are grateful for his dedicated service to our commonwealth. I am pleased to welcome Bob Stolle to lead the agency and its efforts to advance our innovation economy.”

Source: Virginia Business

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Miami University of Ohio has chosen Alicia Knoedler, who has led a number of research and development initiatives across several universities, to serve as vice president for research and innovation.

Most recently, Knoedler worked at the University of Oklahoma as executive vice president for research and executive director of the Center for Research Program Development and Enrichment. Prior to those roles, she helped develop and grow research capacity in various roles at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Notre Dame.

“Dr. Knoedler is a national leader in developing university-based research enterprises and talent,” says Jason Osborne, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at MIami University. “She has had substantial success in helping individuals craft career-long scholarship trajectories, has a strong record of supporting underserved disciplines like the arts and humanities, and has led efforts to diversify research leadership nationally. I believe she will quickly empower our faculty, staff and students toward more competitive, successful and impactful research programs, fellowships and awards.”

Knoedler comments, “What appeals to me about the VPRI position at Miami University are the needs for a holistic approach to strategically advance research/scholarship/creative activity, innovate in areas of research support and operations, embolden researchers at all levels to pursue research challenges of significant relevance and value across a variety of contexts and stakeholders, and assist in the production of and advocacy for collective research outcomes.”

Source: Miami University

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Study: faculty not motivated by financial incentives, so conduct outreach accordingly


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

A detailed article on research into the motivators of faculty involvement in commercialization activity appears in the September issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, click here.

It’s been 40 years since passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, and tech transfer professionals have spent a lot of that time trying to get faculty researchers to buy into a philosophical shift toward thinking about their innovations as having commercial value. It’s still not uncommon for “old guard” faculty to resist any suggestion that they should embrace the tech transfer ethos. Thankfully for TTOs the shift away from commercialization as a dirty word has gradually occurred, due in no small part to TTO outreach efforts.

A new research paper on the motivations of faculty innovators hopes to continue that trend by delving into what drives researchers to commercialize their work. The authors of the paper, “Not in the Job Description: The Commercial Activities of Academic Scientists and Engineers,” hope their analysis will help policymakers, funders, and TTOs to formulate better incentives for academic researchers to engage in commercial activities. The paper was published in Management Science in June. (E-News readers can access it here.)

“Very often, policymakers and funders assume that academics engage in commercial activities because they want to get money because that’s what we think commercial activity does,” says Henry Sauermann, one of the paper’s three authors. “But I think we completely forgot the fact that people might also want to have a broader impact, which commercialization can allow them to have. Funding agencies always say, ‘yes, we want to see broader impacts.’ But when we think about what academics want, people assume that they don’t care that much about it and assume they care about financial benefits and careers, which is not the whole story.”

In fact, the study found that differences in monetary rewards associated with licensing had no relationship with patenting in any field — a fact that should help inform how faculty outreach is planned and executed.

The authors used patent application counts as a proxy for commercial activities, using five years of NSF survey data of nearly 2,100 research-focused academics over a five-year period, working at 160 different institutions. The data was augmented by information on universities’ faculty licensing income sharing policies, TTO formation date, and data indicative of the quality of the respondents’ academic departments.

The authors also reviewed the prior literature on faculty motivations, which primarily argues that researchers are motivated by rewards of self-interest, such as money. But they also found that prior studies do not address social impact as a motive. As they state in the paper, “this is surprising… because social benefits are invoked to justify the public funding of academic research as well as policy efforts that promote academic entrepreneurship.”

As for differences in commercialization among different fields, the authors found that engineers have the highest average count of patent applications, followed by life scientists and physical scientists. But they found no significant differences among the different fields in the reported importance of salary, intellectual challenge, or opportunity for career advancement. Licensing incentives had no relationship with patenting in any field.

The insignificance of financial incentives in predicting patenting surprised the authors, because it contradicts the public perception that academic researches get large payoffs from their patented innovations. The authors posit a reason for that may be the fact that, with rare exceptions, the payoff from patents is meager. Even in cases where 30% of licensing income could be significant, Sauermann notes, some researchers simply don’t care about the money.

Other potential financial motivators were not captured in the paper, such as patenting as a means to acquire more resources for research. “I have known a number of faculty members who say, ‘I want you to take my personal share and put it in my lab account,’” observes Gregory Gallo, director of technology transfer at the University of Connecticut. “If faculty feel that that engagement with a company can then allow them to access dollars that they might not otherwise be able to access, then they’ll be much more inclined to engage.”

Patrick Reynolds, assistant director of faculty & start-up services in the TTO at Emory University, reports that in his experience at the university, interest in personal economic return from commercialization is not a big motivator. “I think faculty quite often are thinking about their exciting results leading to a product. But I don’t feel that their main interest in working with TTOs is because they think it will make them rich.”

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U Michigan breaks start-up launch record despite pandemic


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

The University of Michigan (U-M) spun out a record 31 start-ups in fiscal year 2020, in the face of a pandemic that forced many of its labs to shut down for half of that period.

The number is a 40% increase from the previous fiscal year and reflects an overall increase in commercialization activity, including a rise in new inventions and licensing agreements.

“As the nation’s leading public research university, we have an obligation to ensure that our research discoveries are translated from the lab to the marketplace in ways that positively benefit society,” says Rebecca Cunningham, U-M vice president for research. “The challenges presented by COVID-19 have elevated our sense of urgency and responsibility to ensure that our research leads to improved health care outcomes, enhanced quality of life and new opportunities for economic growth.”

The 31 start-ups raised $237 million during the fiscal year, and the TTO brought in $14.5 million in revenues from licensing.

“The launch of 31 new start-up companies last fiscal year is a testament to the strength and resiliency of the university’s growing innovation ecosystem,” says Kelly Sexton, U-M associate vice president for research-technology transfer and innovation partnerships. “This record-breaking growth in start-up formation is important in 2020 because these new companies will be meaningful contributors to the growth and diversification of our state’s economy as we work to rebound from the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Source: Michigan News

The TTO's Pandemic Response Toolkit is an all-new distance learning collection filled with strategies to maintain momentum in your commercialization efforts despite unprecedented challenges. Click here for details.

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The Status of VC and Angel Funding for University Start-ups During the Pandemic: Overcoming Current Challenges and Preparing for the Future


By Jason Norris
Published: September 16th, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, VC and angel funding for university start-ups is more of a challenge than ever for most ventures. For some, however, the technology needs associated with the pandemic have actually increased investor interest. Telehealth and other COVID-related businesses are prime examples of potential unicorns for investors, yet many university-based start-ups have been stalled to clear the way for emergency projects. At the same time, there’s plenty of money on the sidelines, but will it be deployed – and when, and to what sectors? 

In all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the struggling economy, it’s hard to know what the prospects are for funding, and how to proceed with your university’s start-up plans.

Tech Transfer Central’s Distance Learning Division has teamed up with Bryn Rees, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Research & Innovation and Managing Director of Venture Partners for the University of Colorado Boulder, and Kirsten Leute, Partner in charge of University Relations with Osage University Partners (OUP), to bring you this critical webinar: The Status of VC and Angel Funding for University Start-ups During the Pandemic: Overcoming Current Challenges and Preparing for the Future, scheduled for October 15. We’ll cut through the confusion to provide you with supporting data and guidance on what to expect from angel and VC investors now and in the coming months as conditions change.

For complete details or to register, click here.

Also coming soon:

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U of Minnesota start-up takes unused meds and donates them to people in need


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

A nonprofit start-up from the University of Minnesota (UMN) is donating unused medications to people across the state who struggle to afford their prescriptions. continue reading »

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UC Berkeley start-up set to commercialize “micro” CRISPR enzyme for in vivo gene editing


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

A start-up from the University of California (UC)-Berkeley aims to commercialize a micro-sized CRISPR enzyme that could provide a new, more versatile tool for gene editing. continue reading »

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Researchers from LLNL, Texas A&M and Memory Medical develop blood-flow medical plug


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Texas A&M University and Santa Clara-based Memory Medical have jointly developed a foam plug that prevents blood flow to diseased vessels. continue reading »

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Cleveland Clinic’s Medical Innovation Playbook reveals secrets to successful commercialization of medical technologies


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

Academic medical centers are playing an increasingly vital role in providing breakthrough research — yet information and data on the commercialization system across these healthcare institutions is scarce and difficult to access. Here’s a resource that fills that gap, providing performance benchmarks and detailed best practices from 61 of the nation’s top academic medical centers.

The Medical Innovation Playbook is a 508-page reference — created by the world-renowned experts at Cleveland Clinic Innovations — that profiles the commercialization programs at top healthcare institutions and academic medical centers. It provides an in-depth look into how hospitals and universities are successfully sending thousands of new technologies to market through locally designed and managed commercialization teams. Nowhere else will you find a more comprehensive view of new approaches and new collaborations in medical innovation and tech transfer, plus you can use the performance data these institutions provide to benchmark your own medical innovation efforts.

For complete details and to order, click here.

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U of Tasmania spins out tourism-tracking technology


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

The University of Tasmania (UTAS) has licensed out an award-winning technology that tracks tourist activity. continue reading »

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U of Sheffield start-up is developing novel treatment for various cancers


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

A University of Sheffield (TUOS) spinout is developing a treatment that could improve the life expectancy and quality of life for patients with cancers such as pancreatic and relapsed breast cancer. continue reading »

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Purdue student develops device to make co-sleeping safe and easy for moms and babies


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

A student at Purdue University has developed a device that makes it safer and easier for a mother and baby to share a sleeping space. continue reading »

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Comings and Goings


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 16th, 2020

Daniel Sui, vice chancellor for research and innovation at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, is leaving his position for a role at Virginia Tech University.

“We are grateful to Dan for his leadership in a time of transition for the Office of Research and Innovation,” says UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz. “He has done a great job building the infrastructure to support faculty research and improving our systems for research awards and expenditures, ensuring we are in alignment with national best practices, helping to establish and position a distinct research office following its separation from economic development. His work to help launch the planning for the Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research and the accompanying facility has been helpful and much appreciated.”

Prior to his role at UA, Sui served as a division director at the National Science Foundation and professor at Ohio State University’s Department of Geography. He will be joining Virginia Tech University as vice president for research and innovation, starting on Nov. 1.

Source: TB&P

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