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Technology transfer contributes multiple benefits to universities

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Holly Korschun

University technology transfer is the process of identifying and creating promising intellectual property from scientific findings and guiding those discoveries into the commercial marketplace through licensing deals and industry partnerships. Although successful technology transfer can have a significant financial impact on universities, the benefits extend well beyond the financial realm.

The exponential benefits of technology transfer are described in an article in the current issue of the journal Technology and Innovation, by the National Academy of Inventors and university technology transfer leaders.

Todd Sherer, Emory associate vice president and director of technology transfer and former president of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), is a co-author of the article.

Ever since passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, universities have been allowed to retain ownership of federally funded intellectual property. The results of technology transfer have included enhanced innovation in university laboratories, additional revenues available for research, a culture of entrepreneurship, and increased opportunities for both faculty and students.

“University technology transfer has proven to be an extremely valuable method of ensuring that innovative university discoveries become more readily accessible as commercial products that benefit patients, health care providers, industry, and the community at large,” says Sherer. “Fundamental scientific research continues to serve as the essential basis for discovery, but technology transfer helps ensure that the promising results of innovation become available outside university laboratories.”

According to the authors, the benefits of university technology transfer include:

• Creating a vibrant culture of entrepreneurship that promotes recruitment and retention of faculty.

• Increasing student success through participation in applied research, education about the patenting and licensing process, and increased job prospects.

• Addressing global health challenges in health, the environment, and technology.

• Developing the economy via licensing revenue and royalties available for additional research, multi-institutional grants, industry partnerships, better retention of local talent, start-up companies, and new jobs.

In 2012, according to data gathered by the AUTM from 82 institutions, $36.8 billion in net sales was generated by 70 university startup companies that provided fulltime employment for 15,741 people. Additionally, 705 new companies were created based on university patented inventions and 591 new commercial products were launched for consumer use in 2012.

Additional co-authors of the paper are Paul R. Sanberg, president of the NAI, Valerie Landrio McDevitt, executive director of AUTM, Joelle Mendez-Hinds of the University of South Florida, David Winwood of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Vinit Nijhawan of Boston University, and John F. Ritter of Princeton University.
The Fourth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors will take place March 19-20, 2015, at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Ca.

The full-text article is available here through open access.

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