Two bills collectively called the America Innovates Act of 2012 were introduced in Congress, one in the Senate and the other in the House of Representatives, in April that have the potential to help universities that need funding to create spinout companies, says Patent Docs' Kevin Noonan. "The bill provides for the US to establish an American Innovation Bank as an 'independent agency,' that will 'promote the commercialization of science and engineering discoveries' by 'provid[ing] grants, loans, and other assistance to eligible entities and individuals to enable the entities and individuals to perform the necessary research and development to make research discoveries attractive for private investment that will lead to the development of new companies, products, and jobs,'" Noonan says. The grants would be available to institutes of higher learning and non-profit research institutions, and would be awarded on a competitive basis. Further, Noonan adds, the bill also provides for grants to be awarded directly to individuals. "The Bank is intended, among other things, to help companies navigate the 'valley of death' where university-related start-up companies go through initial funding monies before having sufficient experimental results to attract venture capital or large company investment or commercialize their products," he says.
However, though the bills have been referred to the respective committees in the House and Senate that would need to approve them, it is unlikely they will receive any attention until after the election, Noonan says. But one of the bill's sponsors, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), is working hard to promote it. "That kind of promotion … could be the ticket for accelerating consideration of the bills before November," Noonan adds.