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University leaders enhance economic development efforts, call on federal agencies to assist

April 29, 2011

Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow and 125 other research university presidents and chancellors have written U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke describing how they will expand their efforts to promote economic development and calling on the federal government to further support that effort.

“Fueled by federal funding and encouraged by enlightened federal policies such as the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, America’s colleges and universities spur economic growth and prepare the next generation of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs,” states the letter.  “Breakthroughs from university-based research have led to entirely new industries in sectors such as information technology, biotechnology, clean energy and nanotechnology.  Universities participate in regional innovation clusters, partner with existing companies to commercialize federally-funded research, nurture startups, attract and motivate commercialization talent, and educate and train a world-class workforce…as we move forward, we also will employ new strategies, enhance existing activities and expand our efforts in several areas.”

Among these efforts, which are detailed in the letter, are:

• Promoting student innovation and entrepreneurship
• Encouraging faculty innovation and entrepreneurship
• Actively supporting university technology transfer to the marketplace
• Facilitating university-industry collaborations
• Engaging with local and regional economic development efforts

The research university leaders expressed their gratitude that the federal government has continued to support faculty and student research and called on federal agencies to assist enhanced university economic development efforts by:

• Building entrepreneurship and innovation components into federal grants
• Creating opportunities within federal agencies for high-risk innovative research
• Allowing, as appropriate commercial potential to be part of grant proposals through the development of commercialization plans
• Including the evaluation of market potential of new technologies as a milestone component in research
• Facilitating the presence of industry on campus by creating an IRS exemption for university-industry  collaborations built around university-owned intellectual property and conducted in university buildings
• Funding talent collaborations, especially for universities with less-developed innovation ecosystems

In addition to Crow, the initial signers of the letter were Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president of George Tech, and Holden Thorp, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Additional signers include Robert N. Shelton, president of the University of Arizona, Michael F. Adams, president of the University of Georgia, E. Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, Susan Hockfield, president of MIT, Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California, and Shirley M. Tilghman, president of Princeton University.