The Obama Administration, through its National Economic Council (NEC) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a Request for Information (RFI) in the March 25th, 2010 Federal Register (FR Doc. 2010-6606) focused on the "Commercialization of University Research". The Administration is looking to identify ways to increase the economic impact of federal investments in university research and development (R&D) as well as foster innovations from federal and private proof of concept centers (POCCs), with the ultimate goal of promoting the commercialization of federally funded research. All stakeholders – universities, federal research labs, entrepreneurs, private companies, investors, and non-profits – are encouraged to respond to this RFI. Feedback gained from the RFI will be used by the Administration to shape future policies around the commercialization of federally funded research.
The following memo summarizes the RFI and other Administration efforts to promote the commercialization of federally funded research.
Request for Information
In order to elicit needed information, the Commercialization of University Research RFI is broken into two parts: 1) seeks public comments on how to best encourage commercialization of university research; and 2) seeks public comments on the use of POCCs as a means of stimulating the commercialization of early-stage technologies by bridging the "valley of death.''
Part 1: Promising Practices and Successful Models of University Research
Through this RFI, the Administration is looking to identify evidence-based practices and successful models that foster commercialization and diffusion of federally funded university research. These approaches should be applicable for wide-spread adoption.
Examples of practices/models may include:
· Business plan competitions;
· Coursework, training programs, and experiential learning that give faculty and students the skills they need to become entrepreneurs;
· Programs that encourage multidisciplinary collaboration between faculty and students in different disciplines, such as science, engineering, business, and medicine;
· Technology transfer and sponsored project offices that can negotiate agreements with companies in a timely fashion, and that have a mandate to maximize the impact of their university's research as opposed to maximizing licensing income;
· "Templates'' for agreements on issues such as intellectual property, sponsored research, material transfer agreements, and visiting industry fellows that can reduce the time and cost required to commercialize university research and form university-industry partnerships;
· Models for promoting open innovation and an intellectual property "commons'';
· University-industry collaborations that increase investment in pre-competitive research and development that is beyond the time horizon of any single firm;
· University participation in regional economic development initiatives and efforts to strengthen "clusters''; and/or
· Supportive university policies such as "industrial leave'' that allows faculty members to work for a new or existing company to commercialize their research.
In addition to addressing evidence-based practices and models, the RFI also asks for input on other aspects of the commercialization of university research. These aspects include the identification of metrics for success, necessary changes in public policy and funding, and impact of external and regional partnerships/collaborations.
Part 2: Proof of Concept Centers
The second part of the RFI looks to enhance and leverage success within POCCs. Respondents to the RFI are encouraged to address the following issues:
· Underlying conditions and infrastructure of POCCs, including but not limited to:
o Transferability of existing POCC models to other regions and universities;
o Role of local businesses;
o Role of state and local governments;
o Leveraging existing investments (public and private) to speed work;
o Public/private sector collaborations; and/or
o Financing of POCCs – both public and private.
· Successful practices, including but not limited to:
o Case studies of successful POCCs;
o Evidence that POCCs foster local and regional economic development/job creation;
o Other models (like technology-based economic development organizations) that could be applied to POCCs;
o Lessons learned; and/or
o Role of interdisciplinary services (i.e., legal, accounting, business plan training, etc.).
In addition to addressing POCC structures and success, the RFI also seeks input on useful metrics for assessing success of POCCs and feedback on Administration policies and practices that affect POCCs.
Administration Efforts to Promote Commercialization
The federal government financially supports research at the university level because it is so crucial to economic growth and quality of life for Americans. While there is no shortage of great ideas at the university level, it is often a challenge to translate these ideas into commercialized technologies. In September 2009, President Obama released his National Innovation Strategy which called for increasing the amount of fundamental research taking place at universities and the promotion commercialization for promising technologies. This commitment to commercialization can be seen in a number of Administration activities over the last year.
Obama's FY 2011 Budget
For fiscal year (FY) 2011, the Administration proposed to double funding for the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Partnership for Innovation program. This grant program would increase the number of academics involved in the innovation and entrepreneurship process while increasing the impact of the most promising university-based innovations through commercialization, industry alliances, and start-up formation, and develop a regional community that supports the "innovation ecosystem'' around universities.
Department of Commerce
On February 24, 2010, the Department of Commerce (DoC) held a forum to examine R&D commercialization at universities. This effort, lead by DoC Secretary Gary Locke, brought university leaders and key stakeholders together to discuss innovation, economic development, job creation, and commercialization of federally funded research at universities. Going forward, DoC is exploring ways to increase and accelerate commercialization of new ideas from R&D that lead to economic development and job creation.
National Institutes of Health
Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), declared translational research as one of his top five priorities. One way of doing this is to enable academic researchers to move from fundamental research to the creation of assays that can be used to screen hundreds of thousands of candidates for drug development.
Department of Energy
In February 2010, the Department of Energy (DoE) launched the Energy Regional Innovation Cluster initiative in collaboration with six other federal agencies. $130 million has already been committed to this initiative aimed at supporting business development, public infrastructure, education and workforce development around energy efficient building system designs.
Responses to the Commercialization of University Research RFI are due April 26th, 2010. All responses must be submitted electronically, via email to NEC_General@who.eop.gov, with responses contained in an attached file. The email subject line is to read: "Commercialization of University Research.''