I often hear stories of university professors/researchers who patent or find other ways to profit from various aspects of their work or technology they invent. But I know in the case of my own state, the university claims ownership of any patents or other profit that culminate from research done there (http://www.suny.edu/sunypp/documents.cfm?doc_id=88). There is a loophole for things done "on a persons own time) but it would seem one would have to be extremely diligent to support such a claim. How does this end up happening in real life situations?
In addition to the “own time” provision you need to look into clause d)
and clause g)
and possibly even this bit under clause b)
That’s a great point Naita! I guess I can see how it can be done in theory. I’m still curious though, if anyone has some good real life examples they can point me to.
I know professors who have been involved with start-ups based on their research. Others get on the boards of companies founded by students. And of course there is consulting,which is easier to do with a reputation built up from published research.
Even a simple patent through the university will reward the inventor if someone wants to license / buy it - there will usually be some inverse relationship between % due to the prof according to the amount of money being made.
If you have something serious on your hands then you will want to spin out a company to exploit it. Universities are falling over themselves to support academic staff in this endeavour, and some are even competent at doing it.
How that works from seeing colleagues do it is that the academic will have the body of fundamental research done in their lab and wants to take the next step to translating it. The first steps to getting a company off the ground are easy for a prof used to raising money, especially given that most governments are basically sick of academics dicking around and are begging them to do something useful.
It’s not really a business at this stage, more an extension of their research group but with some key research staff working full time on shifting the research in a commerical direction. As milestones are hit and it starts looking like it might become a business (in it’s own right or someone wants to buy it), the prof progressively stands aside and seats him or herself down on the SAB, and business people come in to run the show. [This pathway to profitibility is obv not easy by any stretch, but that route is what people are aiming for].
The university, academic and research staff involved profit from their work according to whatever contracts were drawn up when the company was founded.
Running a research group is very much like running a small business in some ways - it’s a natural step for many to try and exploit the science commercially. If you are of an entrepreneurial bent it is a great environment - even during the PhD you can think in this direction.
Researchers who publish get higher salaries get hired by more prestigious universities.
This topic interests me greatly. Do you know where I may find more information about this?
Where I work as a federal employee, the government owns the patent, but the co-inventors share about 25% of the royalties from the patent but no more than than a total of $150,000 per year for all patents.
As it happens I’m involved in this right now (as an investor/fund-raiser not the scientist). The first thing that happened is we had to come to an agreement with the University to license their share of the patent rights (the “inventor” shares patent with the U). After we got the release, the rest was pretty much just straight startup kind of stuff (raising money, getting lab space, hiring staff, etc). The University, while not directly involved (certainly they are providing no financial support) is still very supportive of the project and is helping in other ways.
Florida has a quasi-governmental body focused on this stuff:
Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research
The business-speak word you want is “technology transfer”. Research universities have Offices of Technology Transfer that handle the negotiations between the university, the intellectual property creators, and potential clients. The university typically owns the intellectual property(*), but unless the university want to drive away current and potential future faculty, they will offer fairly sensibly licensing and profit sharing agreements.
While things like fabrication techniques, new materials, new devices, etc., are still a big part of the scene, technology transfer offices at major research universities these days do the bulk of their licensing for software (think: algorithms, control software, computational tools, etc. as opposed to glossy commercial-type software).
(*)For research conducted using external funding sources (so, nearly everything), this will be stated in the funding contracts. As for the content creator: they signed away rights when being hired.