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Regents OK $2M to spur invention development

By Matt Flores
Assistant Director of Public Affairs, UT System

(Dec. 10, 2007)--In an effort to bridge the gap between invention and product development, the University of Texas System Board of Regents established Dec. 6 a $2 million fund to speed the commercialization of products created at UT System institutions.

The fund -- called the Texas Ignition Program (TIP) -- was authorized after a yearlong UT System analysis determined that potential products developed at UT institutions often require additional effort and capital before they can attract investors to commercialize the inventions.

"Global competitiveness is rapidly changing the role of higher education institutions in the economic development arena -- and this requires a proactive approach to the protection and translation of intellectual property from discovery to commercialization," said UT System Chancellor Mark G. Yudof.

"We believe this program will foster the formation of startup companies and other related activities and eventually contribute greatly to the economic vitality of the state," Yudof added.

The initiative is designed to stimulate commercialization of discoveries at all 15 UT System institutions. Institutions would receive grants of up to $50,000 for the development and maturation of the discoveries so that they can be transformed into marketable intellectual property.

The program permits UT System institutions to request through their president or designated official funds to accelerate the commercial development of a technology created at that institution and owned by the Board of Regents.

Funds could be used for personnel, equipment, supplies, instrument use fees, business plans and, in some limited circumstances, faculty support and patent costs.

Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis, and UT System peer-review panels will be charged with reviewing and recommending specific proposals for awards.

TIP complements two other state economic development efforts, the Emerging Technology Fund and the Texas Enterprise Fund, both of which established by Gov. Rick Perry. The development projects collectively aim to increase research and technology transfer activities across the state.

The program was formulated by the UT System Office of Research and Technology Transfer, which was established by Yudof in 2005 to develop and implement strategies to expand and enhance research activities at UT System institutions. In fiscal year 2007, the State of Texas invested $1.7 billion in the 15 UT institutions through general revenue, enabling exploration, innovation and ingenuity while educating an advanced workforce.

The funds supported $1.8 billion in additional funds spent on research endeavors, 14 start-up companies (66 in the last five years), 117 U.S. patents (553 in the last five years), and 655 invention disclosures (2,770 in the last five years), ultimately creating new jobs, products and services.

The UT System is one of the nation's largest higher education systems with nine academic campuses and six health institutions. The system has an annual operating budget of $10.7 billion (FY 2008) including $2.3 billion in research funded by federal, state, local and private sources. Student enrollment exceeded 190,000 in the 2006 academic year.

The UT System confers more than one-third of the state's undergraduate degrees and educates nearly three-fourths of the state's health care professionals annually. With more than 80,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in Texas.

For more information, contact Matt Flores or Spencer Miller-Payne at (512) 499-4363.

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