Get to know your neighbors: Universities provide more than education


South Florida Business Journal, January 19, 2013- This is the first monthly guest column by Jane Teague, COO of the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research. Her columns will focus on the technology industry and related fields.

At a time when business, academic and community leaders must come together to address economic and social challenges, universities can provide a great platform for collaboration.

In addition to educating tomorrow’s talent pool, many universities conduct research and develop new technologies and products that have the potential to drive Florida’s economy for generations to come.

As one would expect, universities contribute to the local economy by employing thousands and educating collectively well over 100,000 students each year, all of whom spend locally and attract visitors and family members to the region. But, with mandates broader than education, universities have innovated across multiple industries including life sciences, information technology, communications and alternative energy, and offer the private sector multiple opportunities for collaboration and engagement with students and faculty alike. This strengthens the local economy through cross-pollination of ideas and concepts to deliver significant economic and social impact.

One such opportunity exists through the creation of spinout companies based on university research. The region is home, at least part time, to industry titans from leading global corporations who seek to embark on their next entrepreneurial venture. Research that results in new inventions may provide the kernels of tomorrow’s great companies and many are waiting to be paired with a private-sector partner to reach full commercial potential.

How Does it Work?

Most research universities have a technology transfer or licensing office that work with members of the private sector to structure a successful partnership. The host institution derives royalties or other fees by licensing their technology, and the licensor benefits from years of research and development done in the lab. With the decline in corporate research and development across all sectors, universities represent one of the few remaining arenas for game-changing innovation to take place and their research is the foundation of some of the most significant technological advancements that have occurred in recent decades (HP, Cisco, Sun, Yahoo and Google).

Spinouts are also good for the local economy. According to an annual survey conducted by the Association of University Technology Managers, 70 percent to 80 percent of startups remain headquartered in the state where the host university is located.

One South Florida company that spun out of The Scripps Research Institute was CURNA, which was later acquired by Miami-based Opko Health.

There are several ways to collaborate with universities to advance new ideas, fund new projects, and provide training for tomorrow’s talent. From collaborating on potential grant funding to sponsoring research to deploying student interns on company projects, industry/academic collaborations provide opportunities for ideas to develop, each partner bringing a unique perspective to such endeavors, and each becoming better as a result.


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