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The University of Minnesota received a positive review from experts reviewing its tech transfer program, who said the university is in line with the nation’s top schools.
The report was conducted by three leaders from tech transfer offices at Stanford University, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and Columbia University. The reviewers said the U’s tech transfer revenues and volume of start-ups puts it in line with schools such as Harvard University and Stanford.
“Even more impressive, the office has done so on a much more limited budget and staffing model than most of its peers,” the report said. “The University clearly has much for which it should be proud.”
The U’s Office of Technology Commercialization does face challenges ahead. The office’s budget relies solely on revenues from royalties and its license on AIDS drug Ziagen, which represents 90 of the royalties, expires in 2013.
The report offered some suggestions:
1. Patent filings need to increase. The U files 33 percent of its incoming inventions in provisional patents, compared to Stanford, Columbia and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation which files 50 to 75 percent. This could result in the office paying $500,000 more each year, but the reviewers said they believe increasing the patent filings could help the U not lose out on commercializing good inventions.
2. Cut current expenses. The reviewers said the U should refocus the Venture Center to do more educational programming and outreach to local investors. Currently, the center also provides grants and manages CEOs-in-residence. The reviewers said these current efforts haven’t generated “significantly” more start-ups than what’s come out organically. This change could save the office $750,000 each year, the report said.
3. Improve communication with stakeholders and make the conflict of interest policy more transparent.
University officials said they believe the report validates the improvement in their program through changes implemented over the past few years.
“We are extremely pleased that the reviewers affirmed our own assessment of the progress made to date,” said Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research.