The University Record, May 20, 1997

University's inventors honored

By Ryan Solomon

The Technology Management Office recently hosted a luncheon to honor 83 University inventors who had either license or patent agreements finalized during fiscal year 1996-97. The Michigan Union Ballroom awards ceremony recognized the achievement of faculty and staff who Technology Management Office Director Robert Robb said helped the University achieve a banner year with record number of patents issued and licenses completed.

Board of Regents Bylaw 3.10, which took effect July 1, 1996, and applies to all faculty and staff, sets forth the University's policy concerning the administration and ownership of intellectual property. The Technology Management Office is responsible for all aspects of the protection, marketing and transfer of University intellectual property. The only areas that do not fall within its administration are royalties generated by textbooks and other scholarly works. Robb said the number of disclosures has skyrocketed, with a nearly 50 percent increase compared to last year. He projects that by June 30, there will be 165 invention disclosures compared with 112 last year, and the previous record high of 129. Robb reported that licensing revenue has increased by an estimated 64 percent compared with last year.

During the past 18 months Robb said about one new company per month has started business as a result of faculty and staff discoveries. He thanked the inventors for their enterprise. "Without you and your effort nothing would happen in terms of getting technology, software, whatever it is, out the door into the hands of the public."

Medical School Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies Irwin Goldstein praised the audience of inventors who he said are supporting the goals of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Goldstein said NIH contributes a great proportion to the total operating budget of the Medical School, about $120 million per year. He read a passage from a 1994 issue of The Federal Register which he said summarized NIH's view of technology transfer's value of moving research discoveries from the laboratory to creating applications that advance human health.

Goldstein agrees that taxpayers have a right to know about the results of publicly-funded research. He views the benefits of technology transfer in broad societal terms. "The transfer of our University's intellectual properties and research findings to the public domain is a key contribution to the health, economic welfare, and industrial potential of both our State and the nation."

Associate Vice President and Treasurer Norman Herbert said he wanted to express his appreciation to the researchers for the growing effort he has seen them make during the five years he has worked with technology transfer. Herbert hailed the contributions made by the researchers as a great value to both the University and society. He said their success at licensing and patenting products and processes should increase the attention they and their colleagues should receive from venture capitalists who seek to invest in new opportunities.