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October 31, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Latest Heartland Forward report emphasizes policy considerations for states and university systems

Bentonville, AR-based Heartland Forward has released a new report, building on previous research about technology transfer initiatives, that offers policy suggestions aimed at increasing regional economic outcomes.

Coming less than six months after the publication of Research to Renewal: Advancing University Tech Transfer, the new report is titled From Research to Renewal, Part 2: States Realizing the Potential of Research Institutions. Heartland Forward describes it as providing “the first new benchmark comparison for public universities structured as part of a state system and also considers institutions (hospitals, private research institutes and federal labs) that do not grant degrees but are important sources of research and innovation that bolster state economies.”

There are sections on each state. For Tennessee, the narrative is fairly short and reads as follows:

“At Vanderbilt University (No. 53), The Wond’ry innovation center allows members of the university community and private firms to co-locate, use maker spaces and collaborate. In 2022, it added the Launch incubator to foster growth of promising start-ups. Vanderbilt researchers have produced licensable technology in a variety of health-related fields, including medical devices and imaging. The University of Tennessee Research Foundation handles tech transfer for research conducted in the UT system, including at the flagship University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville (No. 98). Researchers with a promising project related to a UT invention disclosure can apply for a UTRF Technology Maturation Grant of up to $15,000 to help with the commercialization process.”

The numerical numbers for Vanderbilt (No. 53) and UT (No. 98) refer to the earlier report (see article here) that ranked commercialization programs at both public and private universities that are most proficient at creating new knowledge; embedding it in their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates; and transferring both to new and existing enterprises.

The authors write that “by presenting data that is useful for improving technology transfer and increasing the impact of universities and research institutions on their states’ economies, the report supports governors, state agencies and state legislatures – the ultimate guardians of economic development – in making informed decisions about the future.”

The key policy recommendations are:

  • Renewing the promise of innovation-driven economic growth in the United States through investments in scientific and technological innovation;
  • Working together to strategically invest and deploy resources as state government and university officials;
  • Bolstering technology transfer out of regional university research-based centers of excellence;
  • Encouraging reporting, accountability and greater participation in the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) survey by public institutions;
  • Pooling invention disclosures and patents;
  • Increasing technology transfer efficiency by adopting best practice in commercialization at technology licensing offices; and
  • Using alumni foundation investments as venture capital.

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