Universities are in a battle to welcome companies and retain IP all at once.
The new Mentor Biologics manufacturing facility at University Research Park on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (left) joins a lively facility development atmosphere among the park's 117 tenants. They include Invitrogen (right), which just signed the school's 24th licensing agreement for stem cell technologies.
or the second time in five years, an alternative to Botox is plumping the profile of University of Wisconsin Research Park in Madison.
Specifically, San Jose, Calif.-based Mentor Corp.
, known primarily for its breast implant products, is building a 37,000-sq.-ft. (3,427-sq.-m.), $24-million manufacturing facility at University Research Park for the production of its botulinum toxin product, one of several serving a market that saw 4 million "cosmetic wrinkle correction" procedures performed in 2006. The operation will employ 40 when it comes online.
The project is a prime example of commercialization dividends. The company's first project at the park came in 2004, via a $10-million, 10,000-sq.-ft. (929-sq.-m.) R&D facility that employed 20 people. The project grew out of an exclusive license obtained by Mentor in 2003 from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) for botulinum toxin technology developed at UW-Madison, where the specialty has been studied for more than 30 years at the school's Food Research Institute. WARF's history goes back to the 1920s, making it a true pioneer in higher education and economic development.
"The intellectual property led us to Madison," says Anna Marie Daniels, the vice president of Mentor Biologics who runs the division constructing the new facility, of the company's original tie-up with the school. The manufacturing component is the kind of corollary to licensing that every university park leader dreams of.
Mark Bugher, director of UW-Madison's park, says it's a result of a well organized relationship among the park, the powerful and pioneering WARF, the faculty and the school's office of corporate relations. He says Mentor's decision was influenced not only by the existing license, but also by the ability to hire the right kind of employees for such an operation and the cost of infrastructure vs., say, southern California. He says the new Mentor project – one of several among the park's 117 tenants – started more than nine months before the July 2007 announcement.
"They asked if we had an available site, the building size was described and they enlisted local architects at our recommendation who are experts in wet lab development," he says. While the existing R&D lab is leased to Mentor by the park, the company has chosen to own the new facility.
Among the other ongoing projects in the park is a just completed $12-million, 27,000-sq.-ft. (2,508-sq.-m.) BSL-III egg facility for research into avian flu vaccines, a 50,000-sq.-ft. (4,645-sq.-m.) project for Nimblegen-Roche
, after Roche acquired the startup for $274 million last year; a purchase and redevelopment of a building for gene therapy company Mirus Corp.
; and new 70,000-sq.-ft. (6,503-sq-m.) accelerator building to house companies evolving out of the park's incubator.
Asked if the park is receiving more queries from pharmaceutical companies as they "right-size" internal R&D and look to mine universities for promising ideas, Bugher says, "Yes, at all levels – through the state department of commerce, through the office of corporate relations and through WARF. We recently had a pretty extensive visit from Pfizer here. They met with companies in the park and throughout the state."
Bugher says UW-Madison has crossed the threshold from being focused on skills training for future employees to being an active player in economic development and job creation.
"That's something you didn't hear universities talking about 10 years ago," he says. "It's somewhat controversial on campuses, particularly ones like Madison, which has a tradition of being heavily academic, with a concern about being a 'kept' university."
But Bugher says financing is a driving issue when it comes to state-school relations. Currently the university receives about 17 percent of its budget from the state, with most of its revenues coming from tuition and intergovernmental transfers. That has caused the school to rethink the whole direction of its delivery of services, he says, and makes WARF and the park more important than ever.
"Through WARF, there is $65 million a year turned back to the School of Education," he explains. "Without that economic development activity, you'd have major problems funding graduate education on this campus. There's an extraordinarily direct linkage between commercializing IP and what it means to the university."
"Madison is unique," says Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. "It is the biggest public research university in the country right now, second only to Johns Hopkins in terms of NIH research dollars. Johns Hopkins always has the big defense contract – if we only could get that."
The newest outgrowth at UW-Madison is the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, incorporating a public facility and the private, nonprofit Morgridge Institute for Research, both expected to open in 2010 after a May 2008 groundbreaking. The projects were funded by $50 million each from the state, WARF and alumni John and Tashia Morgridge.
The intent is to establish a hub for interdisciplinary research (especially integrating biotech, nanotech and IT), as well as serve as a gateway to K-12 students and the public at large. Directed largely at regenerative cures, the projects also benefit from the school's leadership in stem cell research: With the recent signing of an agreement with Invitrogen, WARF now has completed 24 licensing agreements for stem cell technologies with 18 companies. In September, Madison will host the World Stem Cell Summit. Regenerative medicine and stem cell technologies are estimated to become a $500-billion industry over the next 20 years.
Doorway to Commerce
The best-known product in the field, Allergan's Botox, also was based on research conducted at UW-Madison. But WARF did not patent it.
Robert Andersen, director of technology transfer and intellectual property, Illinois Institute of Technology
Therein lies an issue at the crux of potential corporation-university partnerships: Who owns which elements of intellectual property? And how can an agreement be structured so that growth opportunities are not hampered by recurrent legal and territorial tangles?
Robert Anderson is director of technology transfer and intellectual property at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), which now has its own technology park up and running in Chicago.
"Ownership of intellectual property follows a similar policy at most U.S. universities," he explains, "namely that what was owned before any joint work belongs to the original owners, work done during a project is owned by the inventor or their institution as determined by the rules of inventorship of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, and inventions involving both parties are jointly owned. The sponsor of university research gets a free, worldwide, nonexclusive license to university inventions in return for their financial support of the project. If they desire an exclusive license, they usually have a defined period in which they have an option to negotiate terms which are reasonable and fair given commercial and technical reality."
"Most of these talks occur prior to the company being a company," says Bugher in Madison. "Usually a discovery occurs in a lab, a scientist figures out it's worth something, WARF does some due diligence, and then negotiates a license agreement with the faculty member. The IP generally is owned by the university. There is a relationship with a faculty member that may be different than with a company. WARF is there to serve the university, and may have a different schedule with a corporate user."
Though early this summer WARF decided to take Intel Corp. to court over patent infringement of an invention that appears to be central to the company's Core 2 Duo microarchitecture technology, more often than not, relations are cordial and, yes, even "win-win."
"We have had an especially satisfying relationship with a company that donated intellectual property related to solar energy," says Andersen at IIT. "They were unable to fund ongoing development and helped us start a research program that may someday result in significant cost savings in the area of building-integrated photovoltaics. They have made their manufacturing experts available to our researchers and assisted in making prototypes. In the long run, if we are successful they will be interested in negotiating a license to our improvements. As a result, the IIT professor involved has started a company called SunPhocus LLC
Andersen says it's rare to have to turn a potential sponsor away, but it does happen.
"Some companies feel that since they provide the research funds they should own everything," he says. "We explain that they are paying for the direct work on their problem, but the vast resources of the university and the in-depth experience of the principal investigator are part of what we bring to the party. If they do not accept this position, then we have to say 'Sorry.' "
A study released in late
The University of Toledo's Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator is growing as fast as it can to keep up with demand for space. Dr. Rob Collins, NEG Endowed Chair in Silicate and Material Science and professor of physics (above), works in his photovolatics lab. He is the principal investigator on several major solar energy related grants.
2007 by Innovation Associates under the auspices of the National Science Foundation was called "Technology Transfer and Commercialization Partnerships." Among the issues it raised for further examination was the concern among many school research directors that "corporations are more hesitant to engage in research partnerships because of more stringent university protection of their intellectual property." Many directors said a decrease in sponsored research was the result. The study's authors, therefore, recommended that NSF or other entities "more thoroughly assess the effect of technology transfer practices from a corporate as well as academic perspective, with the intent of developing practices that optimize industry-university R&D relations as well as protecting the university's intellectual property rights."
Clean and Green
IIT isn't the only place capitalizing on the alternative energy sector. At the University of Toledo, the Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator houses the Wright Center of Innovation, the Center for Photovoltaic Electricity and Hydrogen, the University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio, the Intermodal Transportation Institute and technology companies in the renewable energy industry.
"We have a 17,000-sq.-ft. [1,579-sq.-m.] second floor going in and we're going to build an entirely separate incubator building," says Matt Lockwood, director of public relations for the university. Now, instead of having to turn away companies, there will be new capacity for them. The school is also looking at retrofitting buildings it owns, and creating more wet lab space. In 2006 it welcomed $18.6 million from the state to establish the Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization. In May 2008, the school was awarded more than $8 million from the Ohio Third Frontier Commission to partner with Bowling Green State University to strengthen a photovoltaics cluster in Ohio.
One successful spinoff from the incubator is solar panel company Xunlight
, founded by a physics professor. The company, which now employs 30, recently bought a building near campus, and is hiring more employees and ramping up production. Another firm, SuGanit Systems
, is working on R&D related to ethanol from biomass, and recently relocated to the campus from Virginia. First Solar
of Perrysburg, now the nation's largest producer of solar cells, got its start on campus. Other companies abound, not just in solar technology, but also biodiesel and wind energy.
"Our president is pushing the idea of Toledo being a university community," says Lockwood, "and using the university to drive economic development. Some faculty members don't like that. But increasingly universities are being looked to to help reinvent their communities' economies."
The same could be said of other major Ohio schools. Witness Ohio State's prominent role in helping attract the NetJets operations center earlier this year and the University of Akron's longstanding leadership in the polymer industry.
A similar role could be ascribed to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering ("CNSE") of the University at Albany in New York. Its 450,000-sq.-ft. (41,805-sq.-m.) Albany NanoTech complex represents $4.2 billion of investment and houses more than 2,000 researchers, engineers and faculty from both the university and companies such as IBM, Toshiba and Applied Materials.
An expansion now under way will expand the complex to more than 800,000 sq. ft., with 10 percent of that space devoted to Class 1 clean rooms, and anticipated occupancy of more than 2,500 by 2009.
CNSE doesn't have a monopoly on chip research. In late March, IBM and the Semiconductor Research Corp. teamed with state and school officials to announce a new $61-million nanoelectronics research center on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. The Midwest Academy for Nanoelectronics and Architectures will also partner with Purdue University.
'School Projects': A Snapshot Tour
• In April, Sanofi-Aventis
announced it would launch R&D partnerships with six universities and labs in China. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal
, Marc Cluzel, senior vice president, scientific and medical affairs for Sanofi-Aventis, lauded the nation's increasing talent base, with high-level degree earners in biology nearly outnumbering those in the U.S.
• The projects just keep coming at the exemplary Purdue Research Park. In April, PRP broke ground on a 13-acre (5.3-hectare) expansion that will include the $14.5-million, 105,000-sq.-ft. (9,755-sq.-m.) Herman and Heddy Kurz Purdue Technology Center II building.
The first building at Auburn Research Park in Alabama just saw its scaffolding removed in early June, and will be home to a national work-force center from Northrop Grumman Corp.
The City of West Lafayette, Ind., approved a 10-year tax abatement for the new facility worth $1.5 million. Among other recent projects at PRP was a 200-job national software solution center from EDS
announced in February.
• The first building is now complete at the new Auburn Research Park in Auburn, Ala. One floor of the new 44,000-sq.-ft. (4,088-sq.-m.) edifice will be home to a national work force center from Northrop Grumman Corp.
The park received $10 million in funding from the state, $5 million from the City of Auburn and 156 acres (63.1 hectares) from Auburn University. John D. Weete, executive director of the park, says the "way overdue" project can learn from other park efforts.
"I think the university can compromise more to get a good deal flow and work on a volume basis rather than try to get rich off of every deal they make," he says. He says access to talent is high on corporate priority lists. "We placed an ad in Technology Alabama
, and I've already received one call from a company," he says. "They're in a small town, and can't get engineers to move there, so they're considering moving here."
• Applied Micro Circuits Corp.
(AMCC) has signed a three-way agreement with Vietnam National University of Ho Chi Minh City and hardware and software design firm Mentor Graphics Corp. to collaborate on the development and delivery of educational courses for two new electronic design laboratories. Vu Nguyen, president of AMCC Vietnam and vice president of engineering for AMCC, said the collaboration was "an important factor for our decision to install our new design center in Vietnam. Vietnam attracted us with its commitment to building a skilled and educated work force from which companies like ours can recruit and cultivate world-class engineers."
• In early June, the 70,000-sq.-ft. (6,503-sq.-m.) University Multispectral Lab donated to Oklahoma State University by ConocoPhillips officially opened its doors in Ponca City, Okla. Also known as the national sensor testing center, the project won the 2007 IEDC Partnership Award for areas with a population of less than 50,000. It signals a watershed moment for a community hit hard by Conoco's 2002 merger to become ConocoPhillips, which moved many jobs to Houston.
Much of the credit goes to the Ponca City Development Authority (PCDA),
The University Multispectral Lab, already in operation for about a year and employing 15 researchers, officially opened at a former ConocoPhillips facility in Ponca City, Okla., in early June.
formed in 2003, which immediately succeeded in extending a half-cent sales tax for economic development through 2008. As documented by PCDA Executive Director David Myers in the Fall 2007 Economic Development Journal
from IEDC, another initiative was to cement ties with Oklahoma State University, 45 miles (72 km.) south in Stillwater, where researchers were simultaneously looking to capitalize on the school's expertise in sensor research.
Dramatic Change Afoot
Judging from a number of studies released in the past year, things have come a long way since the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which allowed patent rights to be assigned to universities.
A 2007 survey conducted by Battelle and the Association of University Research Parks found that more than 300,000 people work in 134 responding university research parks in the U.S. and Canada that stretch across more than 47,000 acres (19,021 hectares) and include 124 million sq. ft. (11.5 million sq. m.) of space. Among the key findings of the survey: "Research parks are placing greater emphasis on supporting incubation and entrepreneurship to grow their future tenant base and less on recruiting."
Among the findings of the "Technology Transfer and Commercialization Partnerships" report from the NSF and Innovation Associates was that business-campus collaboration occurs in a wider range of partnerships than exemplified by tech transfer powerhouses such as Stanford/Silicon Valley or MIT/Route 28. Today some 200 schools conduct some level of tech transfer. The report called attention to licensing and start-up activity at the following institutions, which it said "exhibited exemplary innovation partnership qualities" among schools ranked below the top 50 in R&D expenditures by the NSF:
• Alfred University, Alfred, N.Y.
• Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
• Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Fla.
• Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
• Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont.
• Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.
• Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, Mass.
• University of Akron, Akron, Ohio
• University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla.
• University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Finally, Bruce Katz, vice president and founding director of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, pointed to universities as key players at the release of the Brookings report "Metro Nation: How Metro Areas Drive American Prosperity," in late 2007.
"The role of higher education has dramatically changed," he said at the press conference. "We used to think about these institutions as 'over there.' Now they are at the heart of many metro economies. In Cincinnati, [University of Cincinnati President] Nancy Zimpher is probably the major redeveloper of the core of Cincinnati because of the real estate they own."
Katz foresees a network of urban universities emerging, a natural evolution but a far cry from the land grant university policies of the 19th century.
"I see this kind of coalition building among universities that could dramatically affect not just their own vitality, but the vitality of the places where they're located," said Katz.