The University Record, January 18, 1993

Robb heads Intellectual Properties Office

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

Robert L. Robb, the newly hired director of the Intellectual Properties Office (IPO), is looking for researchers who share his vision and enthusiasm for the benefits technology transfer can bring to the University and to the local economy.

“One of the inherent charters of all institutions of higher education is service to the community,” Robb says. “One way to do this is to move technology out of university research labs into the private sector where it can generate new products, jobs and tax revenue for the public.”

Robb describes himself as a “hybrid” with experience in both academic and business settings. He was executive director of business development for BCM Technologies Inc. in Houston—a technology commercialization enterprise owned by Baylor College of Medicine.

Over the past six years, Robb has founded, financed and provided initial management services for five new companies based on technology developed by Baylor researchers. Prior to joining BCM, he founded InMedica Development Corp. in Salt Lake City, the first formal venture capital firm in Utah. In total, Robb has participated in the formation or management of 15 new businesses or development-stage enterprises.

“Bob brings to this position a wealth of experience in virtually all aspects of intellectual property management and commercialization,” says William C. Kelly, vice president of research. “Moreover, he shares our own sense of excitement over the potential for growth in this area at the University. I believe our faculty and staff will find it a pleasure to work with Bob, and we are all pleased to welcome him aboard.”

“We are delighted that Bob Robb has agreed to join us,” says Farris W. Womack, vice president and chief financial officer. “His background, interest and energy will bring new enthusiasm to our efforts in this most important area. The results should be beneficial to the University, the faculty and the economic development of our state.”

Robb says his background makes him a good bridge between academia and industry. “I understand the problems on both sides, and I’m sensitive to the special needs of academic researchers.”

Robb believes the U-M has the potential to play a leading role in the commercialization of university technology. “All the basic elements are already in place,” he says. “The U-M has an extremely large research budget, strong administrative backing for the vision of what commercialization can contribute to the private sector and to the university, capable and experienced IPO staff, and a supportive local business and professional community.”

Robb says his immediate goals for IPO are to maintain and build credibility with U-M researchers, further streamline procedures for internal processing of disclosure statements, and ensure a well-coordinated commercialization effort throughout the University. “Our objective is creating an environment conducive to the active disclosure of inventions,” Robb says.

He also says he will make sure IPO policies minimize intrusions on the time of U-M faculty members who are not interested in active involvement with the commercialization process.

“Negotiating licensing agreements will continue to be the mainstay of the Intellectual Properties Office,” Robb says, “but we will examine every disclosure for potential business start-up opportunities and determine, in conjunction with faculty researchers, the most appropriate commercialization method.

“It’s very rewarding to see small, spin-off companies based on university research develop into profitable businesses,” Robb adds. “I’m looking forward to watching it happen again here at Michigan.”