Task force on intellectual property issues recommendations

AUSTIN – The University of Texas System will work to foster academic-industry partnerships and establish a culture of entrepreneurship and creativity while also advancing and protecting intellectual property rights.

The Task Force on Intellectual Property Issues presented several recommendations to the Board of Regents Wednesday to ensure that UT institutions continue to play a leading role in discovery and innovation in the state, nation and world.

Currently, research and development expenditures across all UT System institutions total more than $2.5 billion, which ranks UT No. 1 in Texas and second in the nation among public research institutions. 

In addition, the System receives one U.S. patent every two days, signs a commercialization agreement every three days and starts a new company every nine days. In fiscal year 2012 alone, 110 new patent licenses were generated systemwide, producing total revenue of $64.8 million.

Since its formation by the Board of Regents in February 2014, the Task Force on Intellectual Property Issues met five times to identify areas where potential improvements could lead to expanded opportunity for UT System institutions to foster relationships and work collaboratively with industry leaders to produce timely, critical research.

“We want to provide clear direction on how we can continue to ensure we are effectively positioned to promote and enhance research-driven entrepreneurship,” said Regent Wallace Hall, co-chairman of the task force.

UT Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari, the other co-chairman of the task force, said that the overarching goal of the task force was to foster a philosophy and culture of innovation and assure that the UT System continues its leading role in discovery.

“Because of the significant current impact and tremendous potential future impact, it’s crucial that we review how we are perceived, how we process work in the area and what we might improve on as a means of enhancing our research enterprise and ensuring that transformational discoveries do not just rest on dusty shelves,” Karbhari said. “The strength of our enterprise is linked to the vibrancy of the academic-industry partnerships and these need to be nurtured and strengthened.”

In a review and evaluation of current internal practices related to the disposition and management of research-derived intellectual property, members of the task force looked to new and emerging models currently being implemented by peer universities and academic health institutions.

Chancellor William McRaven said. “We need to work harder to ensure we’re creating environments that foster entrepreneurship and creativity so that our students and faculty can engage in research that can truly change the world.”

The report issued by the task force makes seven recommendations for Board consideration:

  • The Board of Regents’ Rules and Regulations concerning intellectual property should be rewritten to promote industry engagement and enhance brevity, simplicity of language and clarity of intent.
  • Regents’ Rules should affirm student ownership of student-created intellectual property.
  • UT System must strengthen faculty and student incentives to pursue entrepreneurship. Particularly, commercialization and discovery efforts should be considered in institutional processes related to promotion and tenure.
  • The current 50-50 allocation of net license revenue required in Regents’ Rules should be reconfigured to provide maximum flexibility to each institution but also recognize the importance of multi-investigator and multi-disciplinary discovery.
  • In collaboration with its institutions, UT System administration should carry out a systematic assessment of how best to advance and resource the mission of the Institutional Offices of Technology Commercialization and the process of commercialization of discovery.
  • The UT System should appraise strategies for using university facilities in more aggressive academic-industry partnerships within the confines of applicable Internal Revenue Service laws and regulations. Opportunities may exist to better deploy UT System facilities in connection with sponsored research.
  • The UT System Institute for Transformational Learning (ITL) should assess the present state of educational technology development and how intellectual property and commercialization in this area is currently managed at each UT institution and how to project the future state. This assessment is required for future recommendations concerning intellectual property related to education technologies, particularly distance and hybrid online learning. 
About The University of Texas System

Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and an enrollment of more than 214,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $15.6 billion (FY 2015) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 90,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.