[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 57 (Thursday, March 25, 2010)]
[Pages 14476-14478]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-6606]




Commercialization of University Research Request for Information

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: In September 2009, President Obama released his national 
innovation strategy, which is designed to promote sustainable growth 
and the creation of quality jobs. Two key parts of this strategy are to 
increase support for both the fundamental research at our nation's 
universities and the effective commercialization of promising 
    The Federal government supports university-based research for a 
variety of reasons. Expanding the frontiers of human knowledge is a 
worthy objective in its own right. Basic research that is not motivated 
by any particular application can have a transformative impact. As 
President Obama noted in his National Academy speech, ``It was basic 
research in the photoelectric field that would one day lead to solar 
panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce 
the CAT scan. The calculations of today's GPS satellites are based on 
the equations that Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.''
    Yet it is often transferring viable research discoveries to the 
marketplace that can pose the greatest challenge to innovators and 
entrepreneurs. As a result, the Administration is interested in working 
with all stakeholders (including universities, companies, Federal 
research labs, entrepreneurs, investors, and non-profits) to identify 
ways in which we can increase the economic impact of Federal investment 
in university R&D and the innovations being fostered in Federal and 
private proof of concept centers (POCCs). This RFI is designed to 
collect input from the public on ideas for promoting the 
commercialization of Federally funded research. The first section of 
the RFI seeks public comments on how best to encourage 
commercialization of university research. The second section of the RFI 
seeks public comments on whether POCCs can be a means of stimulating 
the commercialization of early-stage technologies by bridging the 
``valley of death.''
    Background: Federally-funded research has contributed to economic 
growth, job creation and improvements in our quality of life. In the 
information and communications sector, for example, university-based 
research has played a key role in the development of technologies such 
as the Internet, electronic design automation, mass storage, speech 
recognition, parallel computing, computer graphics, and workstations. 
In the life sciences, university research has led to new tools to 
diagnose, prevent and treat diseases.
    With respect to POCCs, innovative technologies developed at POCCs 
arise primarily from not-for profit research institutions such as 
hospitals and foundations as well as from Federal laboratories and the 
private sector. The Federal Government funds much of this early-stage 
research and also provides funding and incentives to entrepreneurial 
businesses to bring new technologies to the marketplace. For example, 
the NSF Engineering Research Centers Program provides core funds to 
move fundamental research through proof-of-concept testing and 
additional incentive funds to speed the translation of research further 
into the realm of project development in partnership with start-ups and 
other small businesses. State and local governments also provide 
resources to promote new business development. Despite these resources, 
too many technologies fail to cross the ``valley of death'' of product 
development between the research laboratory and commercialization by 
the private sector.
    The Administration has already taken a number of steps to promote 
and encourage the commercialization of federally funded research:
     The President's FY11 budget proposes to double the 
National Science Foundation's Partnership for Innovation program. This 
will allow the NSF to provide grants that will increase the engagement 
of faculty and students across all disciplines in the innovation and 
entrepreneurship process; increase the impact of the most promising 
university innovations through commercialization, industry alliances, 
and start-up formation, and develop a regional community that supports 
the ``innovation ecosystem'' around universities.
     On February 24, 2010, led by Commerce Secretary Gary 
Locke, the Administration organized a forum to explore issues related 
to commercialization of university research.
     Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes 
of Health, has indicated that translational medicine is one of his top 
five priorities. For example, NIH is making it easier for academic 
researchers to move from fundamental research to the creation of assays 
that can be used to screen hundreds of thousands of candidates for drug 
     Seven agencies are providing almost $130 million to 
support an Energy Regional Innovation Cluster in energy efficient 
building systems design. In addition to funding research, this will 
provide support for business development, public infrastructure, 
education, and workforce development.
    The National Economic Council and the Office of Science and 
Technology Policy will use the input from this RFI to shape the 
Administration's future policy on the commercialization of federally 
funded research.
    RFI Guidelines: Responses to this RFI should be submitted by 11:59 
p.m. Eastern Time on April 26, 2010. Responses to this RFI must be 
delivered electronically as an attachment to an e-mail sent to [email protected] with the subject line ``Commercialization of 
University Research.'' Responses to this notice are not offers and 
cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract or 
issue a grant. Information obtained as a result of this RFI may be used 
by the government for program planning on a non-attribution basis. Do 
not include any information that might be considered proprietary or 

[[Page 14477]]

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Any questions about the content of 
this RFI should be sent to [email protected] with the subject 
line ``RFI Questions.''
    RFI Response Instructions: The White House Office of Science and 
Technology Policy and the National Economic Council are interested in 
responses that address one or more of the following topics:

Part I: With Respect to University Research, Promising Practices and 
Successful Models

    What are some promising practices and successful models for 
fostering commercialization and diffusion of university research? What 
is the evidence that these approaches are successful? How could these 
promising practices be more widely adopted? Examples include, but are 
not limited to:
     Business plan competitions
     Coursework, training programs, and experiential learning 
that give faculty and students the skills they need to become 
     Programs that encourage multidisciplinary collaboration 
between faculty and students in different disciplines, such as science, 
engineering, business, and medicine
     Technology transfer and sponsored project offices that can 
negotiate agreements with companies in a timely fashion, and that have 
a mandate to maximize the impact of their university's research as 
opposed to maximizing licensing income
     ``Templates'' for agreements on issues such as 
intellectual property, sponsored research, material transfer 
agreements, and visiting industry fellows that can reduce the time and 
cost required to commercialize university research and form university-
industry partnerships
     Models for promoting open innovation and an intellectual 
property ``commons''
     University-industry collaborations that increase 
investment in pre-competitive research and development that is beyond 
the time horizon of any single firm
     University participation in regional economic development 
initiatives and efforts to strengthen ``clusters''
     Supportive university policies such as ``industrial 
leave'' that allows faculty members to work for a new or existing 
company to commercialize their research

Bootstrapping Innovation Ecosystems

    Some universities participate in regional innovation ``ecosystems'' 
with dense concentrations of venture and angel investors, experienced 
entrepreneurs and managers, and a mix of large and small firms. These 
universities also have faculty who have been involved in 
commercialization of research and entrepreneurship, and can serve as 
mentors and role models to faculty or students. How can universities 
and their external partners expand their ability to commercialize 
research in the absence of these favorable conditions?

Metrics for Success

    What are appropriate metrics for evaluating the success or failure 
of initiatives to promote commercialization of university research?

Changes in Public Policy and Funding

    What changes in public policy and research funding should the Obama 
Administration consider that would promote commercialization of 
university research? How could existing programs be modified or 
augmented to encourage commercialization of university research?

Part II: With Respect to POCCs

Underlying Conditions and Infrastructure

     What underlying conditions are necessary to enhance the 
success of a POCC?
     [cir] How can regions with less significant angel and VC 
investment cultures support POCCs and start-up business activity? Can 
current POCC successes transfer to other regions and universities?
     [cir] How important is active participation by strong local 
business community in a POCC? Describe how you integrate them into the 
POCC ecosystem?
     How can Federal agencies, research institutions, Federal 
researchers, and the private sector work together to foster more 
successful POCCs that accelerate commercialization into the 
     How can we leverage NSF's and industry's investment in 
Engineering Research Centers and Industry/University Cooperative 
Research Centers to speed the development and commercialization of new 
technology that has already reached the proof-of-concept stage?
     In addition to Federal resources, what existing state, 
regional or local government funded resources or programs supplement 
the POCCs in bridging the ``valley of death''?
     [cir] Describe any alternative sources of private funding/
financing that might be available such as not for profit entities or 
charitable foundations.

Successful Practices

     What are examples of successful practices?
     What are the key ingredients responsible for this success?
     Is there any evidence that indicates POCCs are an 
effective mechanism to foster local or regional economic development 
and job creation (e.g. research related to the needs of particular 
clusters, participating in regional networks, making shared facilities 
available to local firms, addressing the need for skilled labor in 
particular sectors)?
     What lessons can be learned from other successful models 
such as technology-based economic development organizations that 
support POCCs?
     Describe educational programs associated with POCCs that 
better prepare students to work in entrepreneurial environments?
     To what extent do interdisciplinary services (legal, 
accounting, business plan training) contribute to POCCs successes?
     At POCCs, what lessons have been learned regarding: 
Leadership and team composition, project selection, optimum scale of 
effort, importance of brick-and-mortar facilities, geographic scope of 
participation, and multi-agency involvement?

Success Metrics

     How do you define the success of a POCC?
     [cir] What are the relevant inputs, outputs, outcomes, and impacts 
for success metrics?
     [cir] What is the time period needed to measure success as applied 
to different types of technologies?
     Would the appropriate success metrics for a POCC 
affiliated with a university be different than one affiliated with a 
Federal research lab?

Other Questions

     For those institutions with POCCs, how would you describe 
what you do and how you do it?
     How can research and development assets supported by the 
Federal Government be leveraged to support POCCs, such as a multi-
agency, multi-disciplinary database of supported research?
     How could such assistance also bolster State and local 
government programs?
     What other administrative policies/practices should the 
Administration consider modifying, adopting or

[[Page 14478]]

implementing to enhance the success prospects of POCCs, including 
streamlining reporting requirements?

James Kohlenberger,
Chief of Staff, Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Diana Farrell,
Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, National 
Economic Council.
[FR Doc. 2010-6606 Filed 3-24-10; 8:45 am]