America's Universities Growing the Economy With “Lab to Market” Initiatives

America’s universities play an important role in the national imperative to spur innovation, encourage entrepreneurship, and jumpstart the economy.  A wide range of life-changing technologies were nurtured in university labs, from the Internet, to the global positioning system (GPS), to leading-edge vaccines. 

At the Sept. 16 signing ceremony for the America Invents Act, the President recognized the commitment previously made by 135 U.S. university leaders to undertake “greater efforts to advance regional and national economic growth” and to “ensure that the knowledge and technological breakthroughs developed through campus-based research was rapidly and broadly disseminated to advance the nation’s social and economic interests.”  The commitments are aimed at helping achieve the President’s goal of strengthening “commercialization of the nearly $148 billion in annual federally-funded research and development”, as first proposed in January 2011 at the launch of the White House-led Startup America campaign. 

These efforts will encourage universities to streamline their technology-transfer procedures, support additional government-industry collaboration, and encourage the commercialization of novel technologies flowing from their research programs – in short, to speed up innovation from Lab to Market.   

Also on Sept. 16, more than 40 universities released announcements on their specific plans for following through on this commitment and bolstering their commercialization efforts, in direct response to the President’s call to action.  Examples include:

  • The Georgia Institute of Technology has created a new Georgia Tech Integrated Program for Startups, GT: IPS. This program combines a streamlined licensing program with organized support for faculty and student inventor-entrepreneurs. This program will expand the number of spin out companies while broadening the participation in entrepreneurship among faculty and students.
  • Rutgers University’s Office of Research Alliances has opened a web portal for the corporate community, where corporations can learn how to build partnerships with Rutgers including hiring its graduates, developing R&D partnerships, using advanced equipment, and licensing technology.
  • The University of Virginia Office of the Vice President for Research will host a UVa Venture Capital Summit, a major venture capital event created to marry venture capitalists with UVA faculty inventors and to capitalize spin-out companies generated by the university.

Many thanks to the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Department of Commerce for their help in encouraging universities to strengthen their research commercialization efforts.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Policy at OSTP and Nick Maynard is a Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director for Small Business.

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