21, No. 15, March 7, 2002
Meeting reviews university's economic
By Sharita Forrest,
(217) 244-1072; firstname.lastname@example.org
Although the university is entering the second phase of construction
of the South Research Park, the university is lagging behind some of
its Big Ten peers in economic development activities, UI officials said
at a Feb. 26 town meeting.
About 40 people turned out at the meeting in Gregory Hall to learn about
the universitys economic development activities, including expansion
of the South Research Park, management of intellectual property and
policies regarding faculty involvement in startup companies.
In fiscal year 2001, the UI generated $7.4 million in royalty revenue,
about half what it should have generated in comparison to its Big Ten
peers, said Paul Bohn, interim vice chancellor for research.
However, administrators expect to reap significantly more licensing
revenue during fiscal year 2002, Bohn said.
"It is in our institutional self-interest to help faculty members
move their ideas to the marketplace," Bohn said.
Most of the UIs 2001 licensing revenue was generated by two or
three companies, Bohn said.
To help commercialize technologies being generated by UI faculty, the
Office of Technology Management (OTM) has been restructured.
The university worked with the consulting firm of Deloitte and Touche
to eliminate a portfolio of 736 backlogged projects during 2001. The
backlog had accrued in part because OTM staff lacked the expertise to
quickly assess the market viability of some new technology disclosures,
Of the 736 backlogged projects, the university is aggressively pursuing
commercialization of approximately 150, said Mike Fritz, director of
OTM also has created a portfolio of external consultants who can provide
expert initial assessments so that OTM can determine whether to pursue
development of a disclosure or release it to the faculty member.
OTMs goal is a seven- to eight-week turnaround time, by which
time the projects are either slated for development under OTMs
management or returned to faculty members, Fritz said.
To better handle the workload, OTMs staffing has been increased
from seven full-time-equivalents a year ago to 17 FTEs and six part-time
workers, Fritz said.
The office also has identified a coterie of venture capitalists and
entrepreneurs who are eager to work with faculty members on technology
development and marketing, Fritz said.
In response to an audience members question about policies governing
faculty involvement in startup companies, Bohn said that a peer-review
committee is assigned to oversee each company and the activities of
the faculty member involved.
The Conflict Review Committee, an advisory group to the vice chancellor
for research, may approve time off for faculty members involved in startups,
said Melanie Loots, associate vice chancellor for research.
However, such absences are usually for set time periods and usually
are coupled with leaves of absence, Loots said.
According to the universitys policy on conflict of commitment,
the university may approve release time of the equivalent of up to one
day per week for full-time faculty (40 days per academic-year appointment
and 52 days per calendar-year appointment).
However, release time is not automatically granted and must be approved
by the executive officer of the departmental unit, Loots said in a phone
interview after the meeting.
In the department of electrical and computer engineering, which generates
the most activity for OTM, there are 18 startup companies in existence,
Loots said. Campuswide, approximately 40 startups are either in existence
or close to inception.
In response to an audience members question, Bohn said that the
number of faculty members involved in startup companies is much less
than 1 percent.
The UI is proceeding with development of the South Research Park. The
UI will probably break ground on the fifth building in the park during
March, marking the beginning of Phase Two of the parks construction,
according to John Parks, director of the research park.
Thus far, three buildings comprising 128,000 square feet have been completed.
The UI broke ground for the fourth building, a technology incubator,
in November 2001. The incubator facility will lease office and/or lab
space to startup companies and is slated for completion in November
2002, Parks said.
The incubator facility will be approximately 60,000 to 65,000 square
feet and will be located west of First Street and south of Hazelwood
According to the 10-year development agreement, the developers, Fox-Atkins,
must construct a minimum of 40,000 square feet per year and must have
at least 20,000 square feet available for new tenants at all times.