Technology Transfer at Univeristy of Virginia

By Aaron Small 24/08/2009

In a post last week, I talked about the Minister’s views on RS&T policy, and mentioned that it is not just about “making it easier for business to be in touch with universities”, it is ultimately how the two interact that will be important. I have recently been informed about the University of Virgina Patent Foundation (UVAPF). Their role is to see research conducted at the university commercialised – something they are very successful at doing.

They have specialists in science, business, and patent law to help protect the inventions of their researchers. They then get these inventions out into the world by licensing the technologies to industry and start-up companies. Their philosophy here is simple: maximizing deal flow. They do this largely by having realistic expectations from industry and short transaction times. As a result their technologies are out there – they have over 350 active licenses, assess approximately 200 inventions per year, and have generated about US$85 Million in license revenue for the U.Va.

While NZ universities are a lot smaller, and don’t generate nearly as many inventions as the U.Va might, I think the modus operandi of the UVAPF is something we can learn from here in NZ. I have myself witnessed some brilliant technologies falling by the wayside, in part due to unrealistic expectations of industry by universities, essentially a lack of adherence to the principles so central to the way the UVAPF operates.

The goal of most researchers I think is for their research to ultimately be used for public good. Being open, fair and fast are conducive to making this happen. After all, surely it is better to have something out in the world being used, than something sitting on a scrapheap with nobody seeing any gain.