CA, MN University Systems Take Different Approaches to Startup Support

Within the past month, two of America’s major research universities – the University of California system (first in total R&D expenditures, according to the NSF) and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (eleventh in total R&D expenditures) announced new funds to increase the rate at which their students, faculties, and researchers are able to commercialize their ideas into new businesses. While the UC system announced the establishment of a $250 million venture fund, Minnesota announced that it was scrapping a plan for a $70 million investment fund and was pursuing programs that provide early stage seed funding instead. Universities are likely to continue to play a role in providing financial assistance as a means of commercializing university technologies; however, as can be seen in the Minnesota case and in several others throughout the country, a traditional venture capital fund is not the only method to do so.

TEDCO Announces State-Backed Investment Fund for Cybersecurity Companies

The Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) announced that it received state-backing for its Cybersecurity Investment Fund (CIF) – a fund that helps companies across the state develop and commercialize new cybersecurity products. TEDCO will make investments of up to $100,000 to help companies achieve early technical milestones that are critical to the commercialization process. Technologies eligible for CIF funding include devices and software that protects networks and components of networks from unintended or unauthorized access, vulnerabilities, attacks, use, change, or destruction. Additionally, computer and critical infrastructure security includes protection from unplanned events and natural disasters. Read the announcement…

MA Lawmakers Pass Economic Development Bill, Awaits Gov Approval

On August 1, the Massachusetts lawmakers enacted a comprehensive economic development bill (H.4377). The bill currently awaits Gov. Deval Patrick’s approval. Per state law, Gov. Patrick has until August 14 to sign the bill, 10 days after he received it. The approved bill that received unanimous approval by the Massachusetts state Senate was passed as a comprise package between two bills proposed in the Senate and House. Through the bill, Massachusetts policymakers intend to invest more than $80 million to spur economic growth with a significant emphasis on strengthening Massachusetts’ innovation industries. Tech-based economic development efforts will focus on emerging industries, investments in workforce development and education, and promoting targeted regional growth. A major point of contention, language dealing with non-compete agreements, did not survive in the final bill.

NIH Announces Competition for Biomedical Proof-of-Concept Centers

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is accepting applications for the Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) program to support proof-of-concept centers (Hubs) that facilitate and accelerate the translation of biomedical innovations into commercial products that improve patient care and enhance health. NIH intends to award approximately $9 million to institutions of higher education to establish three new REACH Hubs. In addition to helping identify innovations appropriate for commercialization, REACH Hubs must provide entrepreneurial educational opportunities to academic investigators about the design and conduct of product definition studies and the commercialization processes required for transitioning a technology out of academic labs to the private sector via a startup venture or a licensing agreement. Applications are due June 26. Read the federal funding announcement…

Industry Support Boosts Chances of Tech Commercialization, Study Indicates

Corporate-sponsored research resulted in licenses and patents much more frequently than federally sponsored projects at the campuses of the University of California system between 1990 and 2010, according to findings published in Nature. While federally funded research produced licenses in 22 percent of cases, 29 percent of industry-supported projects led to licenses. Federally supported projects led to licenses 26 percent of the time, while corporate research did so in 29 percent of cases.  Corporate sponsorship also led to more citations in future patents. This was true across technology fields.

New Commercialization Efforts Launched by Universities, Industry Partners

University-focused initiatives that help bring new technologies and products to market help drive regional economic development and encourage an entrepreneurial culture on campuses. To create stronger connections with the private sector, eliminate barriers between universities and the innovation community, and better support industry needs, some higher education institutions are honing in on entrepreneurship and commercialization activities.

Illinois Universities Keep Spinoff Companies Close to Home

Of the 118 university-based startups launched in Illinois between 2006-13, about 73 percent remain in the state, according to the latest issue of the Illinois Innovation Index. The 2013 fourth quarter report of the Index focuses on the recent strides made by the state in building a stronger technology transfer pipeline. During the five-year period of 2008-12, Illinois universities received 47 percent more patents than they did during the 2003-07 period, almost triple the national growth rate. The authors note that a majority of the companies licensing these technologies are remaining in university region. Download the index (pdf format)…

NY, WI, IN Initiatives Address Region-Specific Barriers to Commercialization

Follow-on funding, access to technology, talent and resources all can be barriers to commercialization and successfully spinning off sustainable companies. Always seeking a quicker, more viable path to market for technologies and products, university-based programs and public-private partnerships try to tackle these hurdles, which often times are region-specific. Such is the case in Long Island, NY, where a recent partnership between a nonprofit organization and venture capital firm is working to address access to capital concerns. Other recent initiatives addressing region-specific barriers have launched in Indiana and Wisconsin.

Report Points to Success Rates of Companies Spun from Federally Funded Research Universities

Hoping to draw attention to declining federal funding for basic research, a nonprofit group of public and private research universities unveiled a report highlighting the success of 100 companies that trace their roots to a federally funded research university. Of the companies highlighted, 89 remain in business today, which is far better than the U.S. average new business survival rate of 50 percent after five years, the report notes. Moreover, 16 of the 20 youngest companies (less than five years old) also remain in business. Several distinctions are drawn for university research startups, including companies bringing forth transformational innovations with social significance and a nurturing ecosystem with companies benefiting from university expertise and a creative environment. As a follow up to a 2010 report, Sparking Economic Growth 2.0 also estimates the level of federal funding behind each of the companies highlighted. Read the report...

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

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.


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