How state universities are working with business to get technology to market.
In the old days, when the finest minds at Indiana's public research institutions made an exciting discovery, they were likely to publish it for the world to see and their peers to envy. But without a procedure to bring the fruits of research to market, cutting-edge ideas remained just that.
So in 1980 the Bayh-Dole Act (that's Birch Bayh of Indiana) was passed to allow universities to benefit from their federally funded discoveries by applying for patents and cashing in on licenses issued to private companies for development. In addition to the money generated by universities, technology transfer adds more than $33.5 billion to the U.S. economy and supports 280,000 jobs.
"If you publish a paper describing how something's done, it's not likely to be picked up," says Lisa Kuuttila, director of the Office of Technology Commercialization at Purdue University in West Lafayette. After all, what company would risk millions to bring a product to market without an exclusive right to the invention? "If it's patented, there's a financial incentive," Kuuttila says.
Since Bayh-Dole was passed, research universities and consumers have benefited as the private sector has taken new drugs to market and put computer technology at our fingertips. In 2000, Indiana University's Office of Technology Transfer, an arm of the Advanced Research & Technology Institute (ARTI) in Indianapolis, generated $3.6 million in licensing income from 92 inventions ranging from dog food to gene therapy. "Biotech and medical devices are large markets and we have one of the country's largest medical school research universities, in Indianapolis," says Judy Johncox, executive director of ARTI's tech-transfer office.
ARTI was created in 1997 as a not-for-profit organization to get around additional federal restrictions on "unrelated business income" to the university, says Johncox. The result of this new independence and aggressive promotion has been striking: revenues were a mere $306,000 in 1996.
Purdue raked in $2.4 million in 1999, its latest available figures, from 76 licenses and options, 34 to Indiana companies. Its technology commercialization office is part of the Purdue Research Foundation, which also operates the 650-acre Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette. Since 1990, 15 startup companies have been formed using licensed Purdue technology. Most--like semiconductor maker OptoLynx and gh Inc...