In conjunction with President Obama’s signing of the America Invents Act today – legislation that will streamline the patent process and foster economic development – the University of Nebraska is highlighting its key efforts in innovation and entrepreneurship that are helping to build a more competitive economy for Nebraska.
The America Invents Act is the first comprehensive patent reform bill since the 1950s. It makes America’s patent system consistent with other nations in the global marketplace and has important implications for university researchers who want to move inventions into the marketplace.
NU has made significant strides in the last few years to provide innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities to students and faculty, enhance technology transfer, facilitate new university-industry collaborations on all four campuses, and recognize entrepreneurial excellence. The university’s efforts are aligned with goals outlined in an April 2011 letter from the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship to then-U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. NU President James B. Milliken, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman and University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Harold Maurer were among the university signatories to the letter.
Among the leading NU initiatives is Nebraska Innovation Campus, a public-private business development that will house university and private R&D facilities focused on the areas of food, fuel and water. Milliken said, “Innovation Campus will be an important hub for collaboration between the university and the private sector. It will offer an environment that spurs innovation and business development, creates new jobs and brings new solutions to the marketplace.” This year, the State of Nebraska invested $25 million in Innovation Campus to jump-start development at the 200-acre campus in Lincoln. Those funds have been leveraged into $80 million in development. Consultants have estimated that ultimately, Innovation Campus could grow Nebraska’s annual payroll by $267 million.
Earlier this year, Milliken announced the appointment of a senior associate for innovation and economic competitiveness to lead NU’s diverse initiatives in technology development. James Linder, M.D., whose experience bridges academia and the business world, now leads the University Technology Development Corporation, which oversees NU’s four technology organizations: UNeMed, NUtech Ventures, the Peter Kiewit Institute Technology Development Corp. and the Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corp. In addition to setting policy for technology development, UTDC provides development grants and is establishing an Entrepreneur in Residence program at each campus to provide business expertise to bring technologies invented by university faculty to the marketplace. "Linking the ideas of our faculty with the experiences of private sector professionals is a strong formula to unleash innovation happening in the University,” Linder said.
One example of university-business partnerships that are leveraging faculty expertise to create innovation in Nebraska is a recent licensing agreement between NUtech Ventures and Bayer CropScience AG. The agreement made $2 million available for an endowed professorship at UNL – now held by P. Stephen Baenziger, renowned wheat breeder – and also supports university research and education programs and plans for Bayer CropScience to establish its first North American wheat breeding station near Lincoln.
Opportunities for Students
All three of the university’s undergraduate campuses have active student entrepreneurship organizations designed to foster entrepreneurship and encourage collaboration between students and the business community: