University of Tennessee head touts profit from research-"modern research universities need to evolve or die."

The University of Tennessee needs to tap its entrepreneurial potential and be allowed to benefit from it financially, the school’s new president said Friday.

Tom Sharp
Memphis Commercial Appeal

Speaking to the Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development, John Shumaker said that modern research universities need to evolve or die.

He said his administration is working on the details of a proposed new UT Research Foundation. The organization, he says, would translate faculty research into commercial reality – and money.

"Stanford has realized $35 million a year in benefits from patents, licenses and companies it spins off. Florida has commercialized Gatorade," Shumaker told the conference’s more than 1,500 attendees.

Tennessee’s constitution prevents state schools from holding an equity interest in commercial businesses, which has all but indirectly prevented UT from profiting from the enterprise and expertise of its faculty and students, Shumaker said.

The Research Foundation would change that, he said.

Shumaker said the first goal would be to "clean out the underbrush of bureaucracy, second almost to none in preventing people from doing anything" that stands between college researchers and the commercial market.

As a for-profit venture capital program, the Research Foundation would help faculty members commercialize their ideas. It would hold a stake in their companies, patents and royalties.

Once that is done, he said, the university needs to create a better relationship with state government so the taxpayers’ representatives know what they’re investing in, what they can expect to get out of it, and whether it’s working.

"Our message to the General Assembly during the budget debate was, ‘Things are terrible, if you cut us we’ll have nothing, you’re all barbarians,’ and so on," Shumaker said. "We need to take a different tack. We need to say, ‘Here’s what we can do to help the economy, here’s what we need from you, and please hold us accountable.’"

He said the university also needs to find better ways to help develop the state’s economy.

He said details of the Research Foundation would be presented to the university’s Board of Trustees at its October meeting.

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.