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President Seligman Responds to the Report of the Steering Committee on Technology Transfer and Corporate Alliances

November 17, 2006

Report to President Seligman on Recommendations for the University of Rochester’s Technology Commercialization Program

tech cover

Read the Report

 • Executive Summary
 • Committee Charge and Summary of Committee Work
 • Key Issues Identified Through Committee Work
 • Recommendations

Appendix 1: Original Charge to the Committee

Appendix 2: Details of Committee’s Meeting Agendas

Appendix 3: Benchmarks of University’s Technology Transfer Measurements against its Peers

Appendix 4: Summary of Technology Commercialization Functions At other Research Universities

Appendix 5: Defining University’s Contributions to Economic Development—Annual Report of the School of Medicine and Dentistry and Summer 2006 Newsletter of School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Appendix 6 “The Role of the University: Leveraging Talent, Not Technology” by Richard Florida and “Regions and Universities Together Can Foster a Creative Economy” by Richard Florida

Appendix 7: Faculty Survey—Consolidated Results

Appendix 8: Flow Chart of Start-Up Company Process and External Resources Available

Appendix 9: List of Start-Up Companies Licensing University Technology

Let me express my gratitude to Peter Robinson and Sue Stewart, the co-chairs of the Steering Committee on Technology Transfer and Corporate Alliances, as well as its members: Provost Charles Phelps; Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Brad Berk; Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering Peter Lennie; Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry David Guzick; Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Medicine and Dentistry Richard Burton; School of Medicine and Dentistry Dean for Basic Research Howard Federoff; Senior Associate Dean of the Simon School Ron Hansen; Director of Medical Center Technology Transfer Marjorie Hunter; Director of the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA) Gunta Liders; Director of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics Robert McCrory; Senior Counsel Gail Norris; Dean for Faculty Development in The College Joanna Olmsted; Dean of the School of Engineering Kevin Parker; Senior Vice President for Institutional Resources Douglas Phillips; Executive Director of Corporate Relations Stacy Slagor; Dean of Research in The College Paul Slattery; and Acting Director of the Corporate Alliances Office Claudia Stewart. Let me also express my gratitude to the many persons who met with the Steering Committee for helping all of us better understand the myriad dimensions of technology transfer.

I am grateful for the 10 months of service this Steering Committee has provided in addressing the complex challenges in technology commercialization, service to faculty, and economic development. I view this Report and its nine general recommendations as important steps in furthering our progress in these areas. The Report’s detailed analysis will provide the basis for stronger customer service both to internal and external constituencies and for further significant progress with respect to preparing University inventions for maximum public benefit and impact on the economy.

It is worth underlining that the University community should take pride in the considerable achievements in technology transfer and economic development before this Steering Committee began. This Report builds on a record of measurable achievement. However, the world is changing rapidly and our technology commercialization process also will need to continue to improve. Our goal, as articulated in the Report, is for the technology commercialization process at the University of Rochester to be competitive with world class research universities.

Technology transfer and economic development will remain works in progress at our University for some time.

At its core, the Report recommends a distinctly unique structure to address technology transfer. The Report does not recommend the appointment of a Vice President or Vice Provost to coordinate technology transfer. As Appendix 4 demonstrates, this is the structure used at virtually all of our peer institutions. Instead, the Steering Committee recommends the establishment of a Policy Committee chaired by the Provost with representatives from the College and the Medical Center. See Recommendation 8.

The rationale for this approach is based on our recent success in technology transfer patent royalty income, our highly decentralized structure, and our history.

Given the Steering Committee’s recommendation, I am willing to support this approach for a two year pilot period and create a Technology Transfer and Economic Development Policy Committee effective January 1, 2007. I do so with two initial conditions.

First, at any time that the Provost determines that he or she requires additional support to make the Policy Committee effective, I will approve the appointment of a Vice Provost for Research. I will review with the Provost, at appropriate times after the Policy Committee is operational, what he or she believes will be the appropriate levels of support and staff that will be needed and what will be the wisest ways to provide this level of support.

Second, in carrying out the functions proposed in Recommendation 8(a)and other related functions as I may determine to be appropriate, the Policy Committee will also be expected to approve proposals concerning technology transfer, including patent licensing arrangements, start ups, and sale or other dispositions of intellectual property where projected revenue equals or exceeds $1 million or which are otherwise significant transactions, such as those involving novel plans or structures or deviations from accepted policies.

The Steering Committee’s Report emphasized its preference that existing separate Offices of Technology Transfer continue at this time in both the College and the Medical Center (see Recommendations 1-2 and 6-7) and that there be a separate approach to addressing economic development (seeRecommendations 3 and 9), that primary responsibility for industry-sponsored research remain within the Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA) (Recommendation 4), and that the Office of Corporate Alliances should be reviewed to determine whether it should continue as a distinct entity (Recommendation 5).

Neither this multiplicity of offices nor functions is unique, as evident from Appendix 4, but the very complexity of the proposed structure highlights the need to have a single coordinating Policy Committee responsible on an ongoing basis to ensure clarity of boundaries among the relevant offices and consistency of policies throughout the University, to monitor performance, and to address challenges as they occur.

I was impressed with the detail of proposed reporting for the Offices of Technology Transfer in Recommendations 2(a)-2(b). I will direct that the Policy Committee be responsible for implementing this reporting requirement on a quarterly basis, not only for the Offices of Technology Transfer, but also for ORPA, the Office of Corporate Alliances, and any new relevant office that may be created to address economic development or technology commercialization. The reports should be delivered to the President, the Policy Committee, relevant deans, and the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences. The precise detail of the required reports should take into account compliance costs. The purpose of the reports should be to provide an objective basis to measure the performance, costs, and benefits of each program. I also endorse the idea of the Policy Committee’s receiving and reviewing quarterly reports on prospective activities in order to ensure oversight and focus to our process.

I will further request that the Policy Committee address economic development as discussed in Recommendations 3 and 9. This will require close coordination with the Medical Center; the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering; and the Office of Government Relations. This area is both one of the potentially most significant areas discussed in the Report and the one that is as yet inchoate in its organization. With respect to the Office of Corporate Alliances, which today solely exists in the Medical Center, I endorse the recommendation that its mission be expanded to serve the entire University. I anticipate that the Medical Center will take the lead in proposing the future of this Office and will work in coordination with the Policy Committee and in consultation with the College while formulating recommendations. I heartily approve of creating greater clarity in the function of the Offices of Technology Transfer as proposed in Recommendation 1 and for the ORPA in Recommendation 4.

With one proviso, I also endorse during the two year pilot period the mechanisms in Recommendations 6-7 to improve coordination between the College and Medical Center Offices of Technology Transfer. I direct the Policy Committee to perform a proactive role to ensure that the University presents a “common face” to those outside the University who use our technology transfer services and that we are “user friendly” both to those inside and outside the University who use our technology transfer services. These were among the most significant concerns that prompted me to create this steering committee. On or about January 1, 2009, I will request that the Policy Committee report to me its views as to how well this approach to technology transfer and economic development is working and whether other steps should be considered.

In reviewing this Report I was mindful of the high level of competence that many today in our University provide in these increasingly pivotal areas of service. Our challenge ultimately is to structure these efforts so that our University may be most effective in serving its faculty, its institutional best interests, and its community. This Report proposes significant steps in furtherance of these goals.