Technology transfer is full of risks. Three major influencers– product/market fit, people, and resources – impact the success of new technology. Researchers working on university campuses may fall into a “research vacuum” and fail to understand the market’s needs and available resources in their entirety, which can be a fatal flaw for technology development. In an effort to avoid these technology transfer downfalls, many universities are changing their IP and tech transfer policies to better accommodate industry and researcher relationships.
A 2010 initiative from the University of Minnesota’s Vice President of Research has resulted in an updated contract for industry-sponsored research at the institution. In order to avoid prolonged negotiations and to gain greater industry funded research as government dollars dwindle, the new contract has three offerings to investors:
1. Companies are offered exclusive rights to the resulting inventions for an initial fee of $15,000 or 10% of the sponsored research agreement, whichever amount is higher
2. Companies must pay out 1% royalty on annual sales after they exceed $20 million
3. Companies must handle all patenting costs
Just a week after the University of Minnesota revised their industry contract, Penn State released their own IP changes, which give up all ownership of industry-sponsored research. Penn State feels interactions with the industry, and avoiding the “research vacuum,” are worth more than any returns on IP. The new policy works to create a stronger entrepreneurship culture among faculty and long-lasting industry partnerships.
These changes come at a time when government funding is dwindling and the potential of industry funding is on the rise. Are these university initiatives going to entice greater industry funding and continued research opportunities?