microbiology_lab 001

University Start-Ups: Critical for Improving Technology Transfer

Walter D. Valdivia

University technology transfer has been largely dominated by a business model of licensing university patents to the highest bidder. This model is unprofitable for most universities and sometimes even risks alienating the private sector. However, a new and smarter model has emerged and is being increasingly adopted. In this new model universities nurture their own start-ups and make available their patents to them. This ought to improve technology transfer. But universities cannot do it alone, they operate within a larger innovation ecology and the government can help foster an adequate environment for entrepreneurship.

Luckily, though, universities appear to recognize that their patent and commercialization projects must change and are moving to, what Valdivia terms, a “nurturing start-ups model.”

Three key recommendations to engineer a start-ups model revolution in tech transfer:

  1. The government should expand funding for the Small Business Technology Transfer program designating funds specifically for university start-ups.
  2. Congress should authorize a patent use exemption for non-profit research organizations for the purpose of exclusive experimental use.
  3. The government should create an equity rule for the distribution of funds among universities.

Get daily updates from Brookings