Medical School, College of Engineering open technology transfer offices

Jay Hartford wants to tap the practical streak hidden within the “outstanding basic researchers” working at the College of Engineering.

“We’re not trying to make radical changes here,” says Hartford, the College’s newly appointed executive director of technology transfer. “The central emphasis on basic research and education is appropriate and will continue.

“But we hope to create alternate paths for those members of the faculty interested in more applied work or more entrepreneurial activities,” Hartford adds. “If our engineers could easily start businesses without being penalized for it, more would do so. This alternate path should be accepted and rewarded, because it directly addresses society’s problems.”

Hartford and his staff are planning a variety of activities to encourage engineering faculty to become more involved in business, either as entrepreneurs or consultants to existing firms. Plans include a faculty seminar series offering detailed information on entrepreneurial activities, including how to start a small business; presentations and information booths at industrial conferences; creation of an advisory faculty Technology Transfer Council; and programs to encourage faculty to work more closely with industry.

Hartford says his operation will complement, not compete with, efforts of the central Intellectual Properties Office. “To be successful in this ambitious undertaking, we must build alliances both within and outside the university,” Hartford says. “We must try to forget who gets the credit and find ways to reward teamwork.”

William R. Elger, financial officer at the Medical School, sees streamlined processing, timely decisions and a pro-active role with the faculty as three major goals for the newly established Medical School Technology Office.

“Rapid dissemination of research information is critical to our academic mission,” Elger says. “Establishing a technology office within the school will increase our ability to respond quickly when promising technology is developed. We believe it will reduce faculty frustration and improve our chances of getting researchers to consider patentability and disclosure issues earlier in the research process.”

Under the coordination of technology director Geoffrey C. Henny, Elger says a faculty advisory committee will be created to help evaluate proposals submitted by Medical School researchers. “Our goal is to make faculty peer-review an inherent part of the process to ensure that we focus on research with the greatest scientific merit,” Elger says.

Elger stresses the importance of coordinated efforts with the central Intellectual Properties Office and the new technology transfer office in the College of Engineering to ensure that these changes “add value to the process.”

“We all have the same goal, which is to help the U-M improve its competitive edge nationally and support Michigan’s economy,” Elger says. “There’s tremendous potential here to create new industries with well-paying jobs that could improve and diversify the economy of southeast Michigan.”


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