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Tech Transfer Tidbits: Mar 11, 2009


UK Professional Group Unico Releases Report Outlining 'Knowledge Transfer' Metrics

A report released last week by Cambridge, UK-based tech-transfer association Unico provides a new set of tools to measure "knowledge transfer" from academic institutions.

The report, entitled "Metrics for Evaluation of Knowledge Transfer Activities at Universities," provides metrics to assess the "quantity and the quality of nine different facets of knowledge transfer from UK universities," according to its abstract.

Specifically, the report outlines tools for measuring activity in categories such as networking, continuing professional development, consultancy, collaborative research, contract research, licensing, spin-out companies, teaching, and "other." It also asserts that technology transfer is only one part of knowledge transfer.

The report also used the tools to evaluate knowledge transfer at UK universities and research institutions. The authors concluded that the UK is ahead of countries such as the US and Canada in terms of measuring knowledge transfer, and is competitive with those countries in knowledge transfer activity.

Several of Unico's counterpart organizations have in recent years attempted to measure knowledge transfer or technology transfer, most notably the Association of University Technology Managers, which annually releases the results of a survey of tech-transfer and licensing activity at US and Canadian academic institutions.

These reports have traditionally focused on metrics such as licensing revenue, but have expanded in recent years in an attempt to better capture the value of tech transfer.

In a statement, Unico Chairman David Secher said that the new report "reveals that the UK is ahead of the US in addressing this difficult, but important, field of measuring the economic and social impact of knowledge transfer. The proposed new measures may not be the last word, as further work is needed, but this report represents an important contribution that we are keen to share with the wider community for further development."

Founded in 1994, Unico claims to be the UK's leading knowledge transfer membership association. More than 97 percent of UK university research funding is spent in the more than 90 Unico member institutions. More than 60 firms of lawyers, patent agents, venture capitalists, and other professionals make up the remainder of the membership.

The full report is available for download from Unico's website.

TEDCO Awards $360K from Tech-Development Fund to Six University Projects

The Maryland Technology Development Corporation said this week that it has awarded nearly $360,000 to six university research projects, including four in the medical or biological research arena, through its University Technology Development Fund.

The aim of the UTDF is to help researchers develop and assess the viability of new technologies, test prototypes, and optimize research design. Since the program's inceptions in 2001, 93 research projects have been funded through UTDF. Of these, 78 have been completed, and 32 have been licensed to private companies, 24 of which are in Maryland.

The latest fund recipients include:

• Srinivasa Raghavan, associate professor of biochemical engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, who received $50,000 to develop technology that enhances the ability of a known wound-care material called chitosan. This award was matched by the Johnson & Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technology.

• Kevin Hong, assistant professor of radiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who received $50,000 to further develop a minimally invasive device used to insert a cluster of markers visible in CT imaging.

• Anthony Farquhar, associate professor of engineering at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, who received $50,000 to build and test a plate-like device consisting of a hybrid material with variable thermal conductivity for potential use in micro-well tissue culture.

• Theresa Good, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, who received $50,000 to develop sialic acid-containing polymers for treating early-stage Alzheimer's disease.

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U of Maryland System to Conduct Formal Review of UM Biotechnology Institute

The University System of Maryland will conduct a formal organizational review of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, according to a report last week in Maryland's The Gazette.

Clifford Kendall, chairman of the USM Board of Regents, will appoint a special committee to conduct the review, The Gazette reported.

UMBI is a distinct institute within the University of Maryland focused on providing opportunities for commercial development of research from UM faculty members, with the intent of boosting the state's economy. It has an operating budget of $63.7 million, with 85 faculty members and 59 graduate students involved in operations, according to the report.

The review comes on the heels of an announcement by UMBI President Jennie Hunter-Cevera that she will leave the institute on June 30. Hunter-Cevera was one of five chancellor candidates being considered by the University of Tennessee in September, although it is unknown whether she was awarded that position (see 9/15/2008 issue of BioRegion News, a BTW sister publication).

The review will be completed before Hunter-Cevera's replacement is hired, according to the report.

Virginia Legislature Passes Bill to Bolster Bioscience-Based Economic Development in State

The Virginia state legislature this week passed a bill designed to spur bioscience-based economic development in the state through increased research, investment, and the formation of university spinout companies.

Senate Bill 1338, also called the 'omnibus' bioscience bill, now goes to Governor Tim Kaine’s desk for his signature or amendments.

Sponsored by Senator Mark Herring (D-Leesburg), Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico), and Delegate Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), SB 1338 comprises top recommendations from a 2008 Joint Legislative Subcommittee on the Biosciences.

The Virginia Biotechnology Association led the effort to establish that subcommittee and played a lead role in advocating the bill along with the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

The bill has several key provisions designed to benefit Virginia’s emerging bioscience companies, including:

Bioscience Investment Tax Credit: Limits the existing qualified equity and subordinated debt investment tax credit, known as the “Angel Investor Tax Credit," to bioscience and other advanced technology start-ups, and reserves up to 50 percent of the available credit for tech-transfer spinouts from universities. The original Angel Investor Tax Credit was created in 1998. However, eligibility was so broad that the economic development value of the $3 million fund was considered ineffective. Once signed by the governor, the new tax rules will be published by the Virginia Department of Taxation this summer. Eligible companies must register with the state in the calendar year for which the credit will be given, and an investor seeking the credit would then need to submit an application to receive the credit.

Matching Funds for SBIR/STTR Awards: The legislation makes sweeping changes to Virginia's Technology Research Fund to authorize new programs such as matching grants for National Institutes of Health-funded Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer awards. To be eligible, the applicant must employ fewer than 12 full-time employees (more than half of which must be in Virginia); and more than half of the applicant’s property must also be located in the Commonwealth. A commercialization plan must also be submitted to be eligible for funding.

Funding for Research Facilities: The bill establishes a construction loan program for academic institutions and political subdivisions of the Commonwealth for facilities used to commercialize qualified research, such as wet laboratories in research parks or university campuses.