Penn’s Center for Technology Transfer is spreading innovation one technology transfer at a time.
According to a survey by the Association of University Technology Managers, which Penn is part of, the University has made numerous gains over the past years in multiple areas of technology transfers.
Technology transfer measures the spread of technical knowledge, patents, start-ups, licenses and research disclosure between Penn and other research organizations.
The survey is conducted by voluntarily polling participating universities — including other Ivy League institutions — and recording technology transfer information for the previous year.
According to both the AUTM survey for the year 2010 — the most recent data available — and The Philadelphia Business Journal, Penn ranks the highest in technology transfers in the local area and is above-average nationally for the number of technology transfers.
“We have a great research engine here at Penn, and the research engine consists of faculty who do tremendously important research,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said. “Of those faculty, quite a few do research that could and ideally will transfer into the market.”
Penn has consistently grown in the past couple of years in the aggregate number of technology transfers, according to CTT Executive Director Michael Cleare. However, he said the growth will eventually slow down, as there is “only a certain amount of work you can get out of a certain amount of people.”
Cleare said that the number of technology transfers is measured in absolute values so size of the university is a large factor.
In addition to size, the amount of money spent on research is also a consideration. Novel research often results in more patents being issued and more outside organizations requesting research disclosure, Cleare said.
Penn had one of the highest research expenditures in the nation in 2010 — spending about $785 million on research, according to the survey. Penn also had one of the highest number of invention disclosures , which is the first step in securing a patent. Penn was surpassed by only a few universities, such as the University of Texas and University of California systems.
One of the areas that CTT is striving to improve is the start-up realm. UPstart was started in May 2010 as one of the first “university-professor” business partnerships, according to CTT Deputy Executive Director John Swartley.
The program supports University professors who want to start a business with a research idea they developed while at Penn. The program provides a “business in a box” to the professors and matches them up with an entrepreneur who has operational expertise, UPstart Director Michael Poisel said.
This allows the professor to focus on research while UPstart helps run the business, Poisel said.
A few undergraduate students have also been involved with UPstart by helping professors develop their businesses. The program often employs students from the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology and the Roy and Diana Vagelos program in Life Sciences and Management.
Gutmann said Penn wants to incentivize professors to start their own businesses with their research ideas.
“It’s part of the Franklin ethos of bringing theory into practice for the good of humanity,” she said.
To date, UPstart has aided the creation of about 50 companies and has attracted over 3 million research dollars from state grants, federal research grants and private investments.
However, Poisel said, “we’re still just getting started.”
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