University technology & economic development the URC: a proposed model for innovation and IP capital deployment.

Author:Salazar, Andres C.

  2. University Research Corporations (or Institutes) (URC's)

    Over 100 universities in the US have established a separate entity for managing university research projects under contract, the entity being usually a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation, whose Board of Directors (or Trustees) is composed mostly of university officials and outsiders whose appointments are originated by some university official, usually the President or Chancellor. The research work being conducted by university faculty and students at URC's is mainly funded by governmental agencies with a minor amount (the average is about 7%) being sponsored by commercial or industrial firms. The foundings of some URC tech transfer offices date back many years (Stanford--1970 (Office of Technology Licensing), Columbia--1982 (Science and Technology Ventures), Georgia Tech--1975 (Georgia Tech Research Corporation). Many URC's were established to expedite contracts, procurements, and external funding for faculty consulting and student employment. In addition, the URC provided some indemnification for the university from the obvious commercial work being conducted there as well. Net income from the URC is usually plowed back into a university foundation for funding further research or for providing scholarship money to students. In addition, The URC acts as the steward of university intellectual property including trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and patents. The latter function allows the URC more flexibility in negotiating right-to-use agreements, royalty payments, and limited employment contracts with researchers, students and support personnel without going through university administrative channels. Since the URC can subcontract out work to commercial and industrial firms as well as utilize faculty and graduate students under contract, it can mobilize resources in rapid fashion in order to respond to any contract need as well as in assembling a proposal for a solicitation.

    Under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, (see US Patent Publication L, No. 96-517) universities have been given ownership of the intellectual property generated from research performed with funds from both federal and private sources.(Salazar & Kumar, 2004) (Siepman, 2004) Although universities have been only modestly successful in tech transfer since Bayh-Dole, this sector has the largest number of organizations that specialize in research contract work and accompanying tech transfer activities.


    The main functions performed by a URC are project oversight, financial administration, IP management and economic development. Hence, its organizational structure reflects these functions by having directors charged with their management responsibility. The aim is to keep the overhead expenses low and subcontract out as much of the work as possible. Contract bids by URC's are made with standardized personnel costing models and expense allowances so that over-runs are kept to a minimum. Further, financial oversight is centralized so that cost comparisons can be made easily and duplicate work eliminated.

    In some cases, URC's have their own facilities apart from those managed by university departments. This allows the URC to integrate work being conducted by researchers from different departments and prevents disruption of the teaching and laboratory equipment and facilities of those departments. Also, should a project be classified or top secret, by having its own facilities, the URC is able to control access to documentation and equipment associated with that project.

    Human resource management in the URC can be tailored to contract work so that personnel movement in and out of URC does not have to comply with university...

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