Subcommittee Discusses Technology Transfer from Universities

Jun 19, 2012
Subcommittee Discusses Technology Transfer from Universities

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing entitled, “Best Practices in Transforming Research into Innovation:  Creative Approaches to the Bayh-Dole Act.”  The purpose of the hearing was to learn about different approaches universities are taking to transfer the results of federally-funded research to the private sector.  Testifying before the Subcommittee were representatives from the Association of University Technology Managers, the Office of Technology Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Michigan Technology Transfer, and the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). 

Technology transfer is the process of transferring research findings from a research facility to another organization for the purpose of further development and commercialization.  The process generally includes the identification of new technologies with commercial potential, demonstrating the technology’s technical feasibility, protecting the technology through patents and copyrights, and commercializing the technology through an existing private sector company or a new start-up company. 

Ranking Member Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) said, “I am convinced that there are a number of ways that we can strengthen and improve technology transfer in this country.  There are far too many good ideas out there in our universities – good ideas that have been developed through Federal taxpayer support – that languish.  As we continue to look for ways to strengthen our economy and secure our global competitiveness, I think it would be wise to focus on technology transfer.”

Some of the discussion focused on the Bayh-Dole Act, which created a uniform patent policy among federal agencies that fund research and enabled universities to retain title to inventions made under federally-funded research programs.  However, Subcommittee Democrats largely focused on other aspects of technology transfer, including proof of concept research, entrepreneurial education programs at universities, and facilitating greater cooperation between university researchers and industry.  Subcommittee Democrats also discussed the lack of Federal resources for commercializing technologies funded by Federal research agencies. 

“Once the technology makes its way out of the lab, it needs to be commercialized,” said Ms. Edwards.  “Certainly, this is a private sector function.  However, when it comes to technologies that have been developed with Federal taxpayer resources, I believe that the Federal Government may have an important role to play in facilitating the commercialization of those technologies.  Our responsibility should be to ensure that Federal taxpayers get the biggest bang for their buck and that technologies developed with Federal resources make it across the finish line and into the marketplace.” 

Robert Rosenbaum, the President and Executive Director of TEDCO, discussed the new Maryland Innovation Initiative.  The Initiative is a collaboration between the State and five Maryland universities focused on promoting the commercialization of research conducted in the participating universities and facilitating technology transfer from university labs to start-up companies. 

“In addition to creating jobs, spinning off new businesses, and spurring growth in Maryland’s innovation economy, the Maryland Innovation Initiative will generate broader collaboration among the State’s leading private and public research institutions.  The partnership will further develop the existing entrepreneurial environment within the institutions,” said Mr. Rosenbaum.