Subcommittee Evaluates Efforts to Accelerate University Technology Transfer

Jun 19, 2012

Washington, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation today held a hearing to learn about different approaches universities and nonprofits are taking to transfer the results of federally-funded research.  Passed in 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act was designed to improve collaboration between commercial concerns and nonprofit organizations, including universities, in addition to promoting the utilization of inventions arising from federally supported research and development. 

“The transfer of knowledge from universities into the marketplace can have profound economic and societal impacts, so we are always looking for more ways to encourage this process,” said the Subcommittee’s Vice Chairman, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL). “The collaborative efforts encouraged under the Bayh-Dole Act have brought about the commercialization of many new technological advances that impact the lives of millions of people across the nation.”

In fiscal year 2012, the Federal government funded more than $135 billion in research and development (R&D) activities, the majority of which is conducted by American colleges and universities.  Rep. Biggert noted that Bayh-Dole was passed during an economic recession and was meant to support universities and small businesses in the commercialization of their inventions in order to increase U.S. global competitiveness and create jobs. “Promoting university-based innovation and technology transfer was seen as a way to combat the forces then working against the U.S.,” Biggert said. 

In a prepared statement for the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Ben Quayle (R-AZ) noted that university research is generally long-term and that “when a university works to patent a discovery, it may be many years before the intellectual property proves to be a marketable success.”

Dr. Todd Sherer, President of the Association of University Technology Managers, praised the contributions made possible through the Bayh-Dole act.  “Since its passage over 30 years ago, the Bayh-Dole Act has proven instrumental in recognizing that federal patent policy is an integral part of U.S. competitiveness and is the envy of nearly every other country in the world,” Dr. Sherer said, “Without the local pride of ownership and control created by the Act, many of these discoveries would still be languishing on the shelf and no revenues would be returned to fund even more research.”

As an example of new industries that have been created in part by Bayh-Dole, Dr. Sherer highlighted U.S. leadership in biotechnology.  “The bioscience sector represents an employment impact of 8 million jobs, and 76 percent of biotech companies have a license from a university.”

Ms. Catherine Innes, the Director of the Office of Technology Development at University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill testified about how universities can best prioritize limited resources and assist more companies in furthering a technology and becoming sustainable.  Ms. Innes said that UNC “focused on finding ways to make the license process faster, easier and more transparent so that the money a company did have could go toward getting the company up and running.”

Responsible for technology transfer at University of Michigan, Mr. Ken Nisbet testified that by establishing effective relationships with venture funding partners and understanding investment opportunities, the University has been able to better create “a stream of high quality, sustainable startups that are creating jobs and providing superior investment returns.”

The following witnesses testified today:
Dr. Todd T. Sherer, President, The Association of University Technology Managers
Ms. Catherine Innes, Director, Office of Technology Development, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mr. Ken Nisbet, Executive Director, University of Michigan Technology Transfer
Mr. Robert Rosenbaum, President and Executive Director, Maryland Technology Development Corporation