Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Institutional support key to technology transfer, Nisbet tells Congress

University leadership support is key to encouraging more technology transfer and entrepreneurship at universities, according to a U-M official.

Ken Nisbet, executive director of U-M Tech Transfer, told a subcommittee of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Tuesday that resources and encouragement, such as those provided by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and other campus leaders, are "critical factors" in having success in tech transfer.

  Ken Nisbet, executive director of U-M Tech Transfer, greets U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. (Photo by Mike Waring, Washington Office)

Nisbet testified at a hearing of the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee focused on best practices in technology transfer. It also looked at creative new ways universities and others are working to enhance their commercialization activities.

"We've established a full-service venture creation capability within our office, called the Venture Center, to more effectively form great startups for our entrepreneurs and investors," Nisbet said. "We've also formed broader industry research agreements with innovation partners such as Procter and Gamble, Dow and Ford."

Nisbet said expanded funding opportunities have been accessed or created to aid early-stage technologies, including the Coulter Translation Fund for promising biomedical projects. He also discussed the new MINTS program (Michigan Invests in New Technology Start-ups) where the university is working with venture capital firms to invest university endowment funds in promising U-M technologies.

"Access to high-quality talent is also a key ingredient for success, and we have focused our efforts to create several new initiatives," Nisbet said.

Examples of that effort include helping graduate students and post-doctoral scholars assess technology marketability, embedding seasoned businesspeople as "Mentors in Residence," and receiving state funding for a Tech Transfer Talent Network to share U-M expertise with six other Michigan universities.

Other witnesses at the hearing included Todd Sherer of Emory University, who serves as president of the Association of University Technology Managers; Cathy Innes, head of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill tech transfer office; and Robert Rosenbaum, president of the Maryland Technology Development Corp.