Chancellor Marye Anne Fox has been a strong proponent of technology transfer since arriving at NC State. RESULTS asked her to comment on the role commercializing research innovations plays at the University.

R: How does the commercialization of intellectual property benefit NC State students and faculty and the people of North Carolina?

Chancellor: There are many direct benefits to the University community, including faculty sharing in the revenue derived from the commercialization, students experiencing the intellectual challenge of bringing basic discoveries to a profitable product, and the entire community benefiting from new funding opportunities for research. A benefit to the public follows because technology transfer has a direct impact on economic development. Technology transfer creates new products, new companies, and new jobs. Every time a new product is successful commercially--even in established companies--career opportunities are created.

There are also intangible benefits to commercialization, such as a higher visibility for NC State accomplishments. For example, our students may be targeted for employment by our industry collaborators, or our faculty may develop new interests in partnerships, leading to consulting opportunities or new research directions.

R: How does NC State's research mission benefit from technology transfer and vice versa?

Chancellor: Successful technology transfer encourages our industry collaborators to sponsor new research projects on campus to further develop the innovations generated by our faculty, staff, and students. Technology transfer at NC State is much easier than at many of our peer institutions because of our long-standing involvement with industry, developed as a direct consequence of our Land Grant mission. We have close working relationships with hundreds of companies and, together, we have conducted nationally recognized research efforts in many fields. In fiscal 2003, we ranked seventh among U.S. universities in industry-sponsored research, at more than $37 million.

R: Why does NC State work so hard to commercialize its intellectual property?

Chancellor: The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 allowed universities, for the first time, to own the intellectual property they developed with the sponsorship of federal grants. Prior to that, the government owned these inventions, and commercialization was attempted only infrequently--about 5 percent of them. In contrast, when universities own their inventions, they have clear incentives to protect key intellectual property and to collaborate with industry to commercialize the technology. Beyond that, our mission as a Land Grant institution dictates that we strive to benefit the people of North Carolina through our research. Commercialization helps achieve that goal.

R: Why is NC State so well-suited for technology transfer and successful in commercializing intellectual property?

Chancellor: Much of the research on campus emanates from colleges that work not only on basic research but also on its practical consequences. Our extension efforts also focus on making inventions developed at the University available to the general public. Along with our well-developed research enterprise, these efforts perfectly position NC State to succeed at technology transfer more frequently than most research-extensive universities.

R: Does the University's educational mission suffer in any way from the focus on technology commercialization?

Chancellor: Research and the commercialization of new technology are key synergies of our educational mission, not competitors. Students learn both in the classroom and in the laboratory--theory and application--and these activities complement each other. In fact, our most effective technology transfer is accomplished at graduation each year when we send well-trained graduates into the workforce. This is why the Office of Technology Transfer is such an important activity of the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

R: How do you see the model for technology transfer that NC State has developed in recent years evolving in the future?

Chancellor: As more license revenue and equity in spin-off companies are generated, the University can reinvest more broadly in applied research and entrepreneurial activities in the colleges. As a result, we've seen greater interest in investment by venture capital companies that highly prize the early-stage discoveries based on NC State technology.


  For more information, please visit
chancellor.ncsu.edu/