Regents Approve Patents and Commercialization of Research as New Consideration for Faculty Tenure

May 26, 2006

Contact: Terri Parker or Tina Evans
(979) 458-6023

At the recommendation of Chancellor Robert D. McTeer, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted unanimously today to allow commercialization of faculty research to be considered in the granting of tenure to faculty at A&M System universities. The Regents voted to add “patents and the commercialization of research, where applicable” as a sixth criterion to the existing list of five tenure policy criteria that A&M System universities take into account in considering and recommending faculty tenure.

“We are taking a leadership position in modernizing the tenure process to bring it in line with some new realities and opportunities,” said McTeer. “State funding for education is declining as a percentage of total funding. We recognize that we must rely more on partnerships with business and industry for funding. Most universities, including some of our own, give faculty ‘credit’ where applicable for commercialization activities, but we wanted to do so explicitly as a matter of formal policy—for the entire Texas A&M University System.”

McTeer said the changes will permit the consideration of commercialization as a recognized output of faculty scholarship in the tenure process. The changes also reduce the possibility that faculty-researchers will wait to pursue commercialization until after they have received tenure. However, McTeer noted the tenure policy changes won’t affect the administration of the tenure process nor will they create requirements for patents or commercialization, even in the areas in which opportunities for technology commercialization primarily exist—science, medicine, the life sciences, engineering, business and agriculture.

Updating tenure policies related to technology commercialization is the latest in a series of steps taken recently by the System to place a higher priority on industry-university partnerships and to support and encourage faculty members whose research endeavors result in new discoveries, including patentable inventions and technology suitable for commercialization.

The Regents also voted to revise System policy to more clearly outline the role and responsibility of the A&M System Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), which the Board established at its December 2005 meeting. The changes simplify and restructure System policy relating to ownership, management and commercialization of intellectual property.

As a System-level office, the OTC gives faculty-researchers, potential partners and investors a single point of contact for the System’s nine universities, seven agencies and health science center and the industry partners who make the products commercially viable. This function is managed by Guy K. Diedrich, whom the Regents named in December to the newly created position of vice chancellor for technology commercialization.

Technology commercialization is increasingly interdisciplinary and collaborative. In July 2005, the Texas Institute for Genomic Medicine (TIGM) was founded by two A&M System members—the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Texas A&M University—with Lexicon Genetics in The Woodlands as the industry partner. The Institute received $50 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund to help pioneer the development of life-changing medical innovation, accelerate the pace of medical discoveries and foster the development of the biotechnology industry in Texas.

Another illustration of the A&M System’s growing profile in the development of technology commercialization in the life sciences came in October 2005, when the System was chosen by the leadership of the Emerging Technology Fund to host the Texas Life Science Center for Innovation and Commercialization (TLSCIC). The statewide biotechnology center was created by the Texas Legislature to oversee the process for evaluating innovative biological and agricultural technologies and dispersing investments from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

About the A&M System Office of Technology Commercialization

The Texas A&M University System’s Office of Technology Commercialization supports researchers at its nine universities, seven state agencies and comprehensive health science center to bring technologies they develop to the benefit of the general public by negotiating licensing agreements and providing intellectual property protection. It also helps secure funding for the new ventures, such as through industry partners.

The office adds value to entrepreneurial research and development endeavors for the purpose of accelerating new technologies to market. To realize this vision, the center 1) provides efficient, flexible and simple means through which industry partners and investors can develop and explore new ideas; 2) champions market-driven researchers in the pursuit of technology solutions to significant industry challenges; 3) provides capital and funding partners with access to a pipeline of new technology ventures, and 4) connects and actively involves experienced entrepreneurs and seasoned business managers by providing resources for technology start-up endeavors.

About the Texas A&M University System

The A&M System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation. Through a statewide network of nine universities, seven land-grant agencies and a comprehensive health science center, the A&M System institutions educate more than 101,000 students and make more than 15 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. Externally funded research brings in $600 million every year and helps drive the state’s economy.