Maximizing the Potential of University Inventions
Robert Litan, vice-president of research and policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, has a new article explaining why the federal government should require universities receiving research grants to allow faculty inventors the right to choose their licensing agent. In this article, Litan responds to the criticism of this idea expressed by Arundeep Pradhan, the President of the Association of University Technology Managers. While Pradhan’s recent BusinesWeek.com column suggests the system is working just fine, Litan argues it could be improved through more competition:
Universities are supposed to be, and mostly are, "marketplaces of ideas." But when it comes to inventions developed by their faculty, there is only one avenue available. TLOs [Technology Licensing Office] typically assert total control over which innovations can reach the market, in what form, and how fast. In the Harvard Business Review article that Pradhan criticizes, my co-author and I proposed some modest steps to expand the avenues to commercialization. For instance, why not allow faculty members to test the waters by approaching TLOs at other schools? Or better yet, let them use independent licensing agents who may have more expertise in the inventor's technology of choice? The net result—something we believe that Pradhan wants (or should want) no less than we—would be more inventions moving more quickly to market, thereby benefiting society, the university, and the inventors.”
With regards to how to go about this, Litan explains:
We can't let pass Pradhan's claim that we somehow oppose or want to change the Bayh-Dole Act. To the contrary, we recognize—and have praised many times in the past—the important role that Bayh-Dole played in fueling the entrepreneurial economy of the last 30 years. … Far from seeking to gut Bayh-Dole, we want to make it better. And it would be better, we think, if the federal government required universities receiving research grants to allow faculty inventors the right to choose their licensing agent. The object should be the most rapid and cost-effective commercialization possible, and that end will be furthered by more competition, not less.
I recommend you read the entire BusinessWeek article, "Improving the Commercialization of University Inventions."