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MI, NH, TX Universities Redesign Commercialization, Economic Development Programs

October 31, 2013

Because universities are increasingly seen as hubs for regional economic development, many institutions are reorganizing their business engagement efforts to eliminate the barriers between universities and the innovation community. Recently, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Michigan Medical School and the University of Texas at Arlington all announced plans to streamline and redesign their innovation services, aiming to increase their contribution to regional job and business creation. In each case, these institutions are hoping to create stronger connections with the private sector by creating a single office to engage with entrepreneurs, businesses and investors.

This week, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) announced the launch of UNH Innovation, a new office that will incorporate the former Office of Research Partnerships and Commercialization, laboratory services, equipment and facilities rental, and various other university venture and economic development programs. UNH Innovation intends to combine these functions with a number of new services, including mentoring and internship programs.

By centralizing all of these functions into one office, UNH is attempting to take a broader view of the role the university plays in the regional economy, according to Managing Director Marc Sedam. Many universities purposefully keep their business engagement and technology transfer services separate in order to stay flexible in designing research contracts and licenses. This approach, however, can be limiting. When universities craft strategies to increase the impact of university research, they typically focus on technology licenses and spinoffs, overlooking the importance of research collaborations, internships, entrepreneurial support and mentoring. By integrating these services within UNH Innovation, Sedam believes the university will be better equipped to support the regional technology economy. Read the UNH announcement...

The University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) recently announced its own reorganization with the introduction of the Fast Forward Medical Innovation initiative. The initiative will combine the medical school's Office of Research business and commercialization groups, including the MTRAC for Life Sciences commercialization fund. As with UNH, the new office will combine the school's commercialization services and research partnerships in order to create a "front-door" for businesses and entrepreneurs to access the university's biomedical research assets. In the case of UMMS, however, the new initiative will only apply to the medical school, rather than the whole university. Fast Forward will partner with U-M Tech Transfer, the College of Engineering, the Business Engagement Center and other schools and colleges in order to better engage with the regional economy. Learn more about the Fast Forward Medical Innovation initiative...

The University of Texas at Arlington is trying a different tack, collaborating with a local nonprofit organization to better engage with the tech community. TechFW, a Fort Worth startup initiative, will offer training and education programs to UT Arlington faculty, staff and students, and help connect the region's entrepreneurs with university research. The multi-year partnership will allow university researchers and entrepreneurs to access TechFW's educational programs, angel network and workshops. As part of the agreement, TechFW plans to establish a new program to identify research projects at the university with commercial potential and engage with possible entrepreneurs and stakeholders early in the research process to make sure that these innovations make it to the market. Read more about TechFW@UTA...

Michigan, New Hampshire, Texashigher ed, commercialization