The University Record, May 6, 2002

U receives economic development award

By Lee Katterman
Office of the Vice President for Research

The U-M was among 13 private or public entities to be recognized by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) at its annual awards reception April 30. The award honors the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) for “Exemplary Success in Commercializing Technology and Promoting Entrepreneurship” in Michigan.

“The discovery of new knowledge and the creation of artistic expressions are at the heart of what makes Michigan a great university,” says Fawwaz T. Ulaby, vice president for research. “And when the discovery can be made to contribute to the public good by transferring research results into commercial products and services, the University advances its mission as a public institution. By embracing technology transfer and its associated interactions with industry, we create a supportive climate for the entrepreneurial segment of the University community and contribute to the economic advancement of the State of Michigan

“The University has worked hard to improve its efforts in this arena, particularly through strengthening its technology transfer operation,” Ulaby says. The vice president accepted the MEDC award on behalf of the University.

Ulaby notes that a number of changes and improvements made over the last several years have greatly enhanced the University’s technology transfer mission. For example, two satellite offices of the OTT have been created on campus in the Medical School and in the College of Engineering to streamline interactions with faculty and facilitate invention disclosures. A business development function was added to OTT, specifically to aid faculty interested in establishing businesses based on their discoveries. Twenty new startups were launched in the last two years—double the number from the previous two years. OTT also has improved its contacts with venture capital and business services that support the development of new technologies.

The University also is one of three Michigan research universities participating in the Life Sciences Corridor Core Technology Alliance (CTA). Other Alliance members include Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the Van Andel Research Institute. The mission of the CTA is to develop a collaborative network of technologically sophisticated core facilities to enhance life sciences research and product development throughout the State of Michigan. It is envisioned that the Core Technology Alliance will be a catalyst for development of life sciences and biotechnology research and development by providing access to advanced technologies to Michigan researchers affiliated with universities, private research institutes and biotechnology or pharmaceutical firms.

The U-M also is involved in the Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative (MUCI), which has created a Challenge Fund to encourage the deployment of life science technologies from research laboratories of CTA members to the commercial arena in an efficient and timely manner. The Challenge Fund provides early money for scale-up feasibility studies, marketing surveys and pre-business assessments. Innovative life science research projects that already have demonstrated technology transfer promise but have not yet reached commercial translation are the primary target recipients of this fund. The chief goal of the program is to encourage the deployment of life science technologies that have identifiable commercialization value from academic laboratories into the business sector in a timely manner.

U-M Technology Transfer Indicators of Progress

1996 2001
(Faculty discoveries reported to OTT for possible patenting or licensing)
Licenses: 45 64
(Technologies provided to one or more companies for further use or development into a product or process)
Start-ups: 5 12
(New company launched to develop a U-M discovery into a product)
Revenues:$1.1M $8.2M
(Money earned through licensing fees or sale of equity held by U-M as part of a licensing agreement)