UT plans to invest in technology commercialization

Liz Farmer

The UT System Board of Regents convened Wednesday to develop ways to generate more revenue by utilizing technology and research through entrepreneurial outreach.

The plan was discussed during the board’s technology transfer and research committee. It includes expanding state-wide business ventures in which the UT System will share ownership. Bryan Allinson, executive director for technology commercialization, said the committee’s focus is on UT-owned intellectual property. Investments will be put towards technological programs that support more commercialization for the UT System.

“We think there’s $2.4 billion worth of research here,” Allinson said.

Development of search engine tools to make research information more accessible is one way the UT System is trying to increase transparency. The search engine tools include information about research, faculty, patents and technologies for business access. Allinson said these tools are a way to communicate that UT is open for business.

In 2010, the UT System had 33 new startups and will vote today on an investment fund, which will pay $10 million in phase one toward the outreach efforts. Phase two of the UT Horizon Fund has not yet been planned but will be larger, according to the meeting agenda. Allinson said the investments will be a source of new capital — money that would otherwise go to Silicon Valley.

The fund is also an opportunity for the UT System to diversify the businesses that invest in UT technologies.

“We think this will help align our interests and put UT in a better negotiating place,” Allinson said.

UT Austin President William Powers Jr. said before the formation of the committee six months ago, the board discussed commercialization, but the committee improved those discussions. Powers said the University does not normally engage in seeking partnerships with businesses to generate revenue.

UT System spokesman Matt Flores said expectations of new board leadership included the need for more focus on advancing technological-based efforts. He said the board wanted to be less reactive and more proactive when it comes to intellectual property within the UT System institutions.

“It’s becoming a more competitive market out there for patents for discoveries,” Flores said.

The board continues to hear different plans by various committees today and vote on Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s framework on establishing excellence and transparency within institutions.

Printed on August 25, 2011 as: UT to invest in technology commercialization