Professors and graduate research students
who want to bring their inventions to the business market should
call on UM Tech Transfer, a University office that makes
University-developed technology available for use in society.
According to their annual report, which was released earlier
this month, Tech Transfer granted more licenses to businesses in
the 2002-03 fiscal year, increasing the University’s revenues from
licensing agreements. The report also stated that more inventions
were disclosed at the University that year. The increase in
inventions, licenses and revenues continues an upward trend since
Kenneth Nisbet, the University’s Tech Transfer’s executive
director, said one reason for the increase was the quality of
research within the University and the support of both local and
worldwide business partners. “Michigan has one of the largest and
most successful research budgets,” Nisbet said. The staff of Tech
Transfer and the commitment from the researchers themselves also
contributed to the impressive increase, he added.
The reported stated invention disclosures rose by 8.4 percent or
from 237 to 257 over the year, the majority of these inventions
coming from engineering research. The number of new license
agreements was 76, an increase of 23 percent from last year, while
revenue from license agreements increased by 60 percent, bringing
in $9.1 million in total profits to the University.
Established corporations have the most business partnerships
with the University, but Tech Transfer also has many partnerships
with local startup companies. GoKnow Inc., an educational software
company based in the Ann Arbor area, was assisted by Tech
“University of Michigan’s Tech Transfer Office has been a dream
to interact with. They have supported GoKnow a hundred percent,”
the chief executive officer of the company, and Engineering Prof.
Elliot Soloway, said.
Soloway added that Tech Transfer helped GoKnow license its
software products designed for handheld computers and developed by
University research. “The Tech Transfer Office threw up no
roadblocks, chopped through the legalese, and made the financial
arrangements palatable for a start-up company,” Soloway said.
Medical School Prof. Michael Long also benefited from Tech
Transfer’s help. He started Velcura Therapeutics in 2002, a company
that specializes in curing bone injuries by stimulating new bone
formation. “The tech transfer was important first in accessing the
technology, helping to get it patented and providing help in
getting the company started.”
Originally formed in 1983, the tech transfer office helps
transfer University inventions and research to the marketplace by
licensing technology to new startup companies and established
businesses. In 1996, the University invested more resources into
the office, making technology transfer as one of the core missions
of the University. By doing this, the University emphasized the
importance of bringing University technology to the benefit for
society, Nisbet said.
Graduate students also benefit from Tech Transfer by obtaining
licenses for their research.”Graduate students doing research jobs
can get involved with Tech Transfer,” Nisbet said. Many graduate
students and even some undergraduate students can become involved
in University research projects.
“When these student researchers are employed by the University
and participate in an invention, they and their fellow researchers
can share in some of the revenues created from a license agreement
with an outside company,” he added. Another portion of the revenue
is reinvested in the University for additional research and
educational opportunities. Graduate students studying business have
also worked for Tech Transfer through a summer internship called
TechStart. “Students can get a great educational experience by
performing hands-on work with a technology project, and they can
also provide valuable business assistance for our projects,” Nisbet
This experience and the associated contacts will give them an
edge in future employment opportunities, he added.