OTC News Archive

UT patents lure investors

Conference aims to commercialize works, research

By Joel Weickgenant, The Daily Texan
December 9, 2003

University researchers had a chance to introduce their patented work to business representatives Thursday at a conference hosted by the Office of Technology Commercialization.

Organizers said the University hopes to stimulate investment into patented technologies developed by UT researchers. The proceeds from licensing fees and royalties may be an important source of revenue for academic programs and continuing research at the University.

“It’s a great way for the University to interact with businesses,” said Carolyn Stark, president of the Austin Technology Council, a sponsor of the event.

The conference was the first of its kind aimed at the commercialization of University-owned technology, said Steven Nichols, UT associate vice president for research.

“We’re behind the power curve,” Nichols said. “We didn’t start an office in research licensing until 1997.”

He said other prominent public universities have been selling commercial licenses for their research for decades. The University of Wisconsin has been doing so since 1933, Nichols said.

Nichols said it’s important that knowledge developed at the University is being put to use in the real world. There is fundamental research being done at the University that meets the needs of society as well as the demands of the marketplace, he said.

“This is pretty exciting,” Nichols said. “We’re trying to support educational research at the University.”

David Lee, managing director for Sentient Ventures, said companies like his had found it difficult to work with the University in the past. But there has been a change in attitude recently.

“The mind-set has turned from ‘how do we cover our patent fees’ to ‘how do we commercialize our intellectual property’,” Lee said.

Researchers view commercialization as a chance to see their work pay off.

“It’s a chance to present our work to 300 people looking for deals,” said Bill Williams, who researches drug development and clinical manufacturing for the College of Pharmacy.

Frances Toneguzzo, conference keynote speaker, said forming connections between researchers and investors is as delicate a process as it is crucial. Toneguzzo is the technology transfer director for the Massachusetts General Hospital.

“We must address the agendas of both internal and external forces,” she said.

[ The Daily Texan ]