What sparked the increase in technology transfer was the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which granted universities the right to own the results of research funded by the federal government in exchange for their commitment to protect and commercialize them for the public good.
The number of universities participating in tech transfer increased eight-fold from 1980 to 1995, according to a study released last year by the Association of University Technology Managers (of which Berneman is president-elect). Tech transfer adds close to $25 billion to the U.S. economy and supports 212,000 jobs each year, according to its latest study. It also brought in more than $424 million in royalties to universities in 1995.
Before Bayh-Dole, schools like Penn couldn't own the rights to federally-funded inventions unless they successfully petitioned the government -- even though the government had already begun making a commitment to university research funding during World War II. In the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, any licensing of inventions took place through Penn's Office of Research Administration (ORA), with the assistance of an outside, non-profit, patent-management organization. In 1978, Penn decided that it needed to be more aggressive and contracted with a for-profit firm, recalls Anthony Merritt, ORA's executive director. "That effort was not terribly successful," he says. "The faculty did not particularly like dealing with an outside organization."
In 1986, Merritt, along with Dr. Barry Cooperman, a professor of chemistry and then-vice provost for research, hired Dr. George Farnbach, V'74, Gr'77, a former faculty member at the School of Veterinary Medicine, to handle tech transfer for the ORA on a full-time basis. Then, in 1989, they set up a modest organization in a separate office that evolved into CTT in 1991, with Stephen Sammut, WG'84, as its managing director. Merritt says it was clear that a separate entity had to be formed because it "had a very different focus from ours. We're basically a processing office for faculty grants, and CTT is a marketing organization. I think it needs to be recognized as a legitimate activity, and if it has its own organization, it's easier to get it funded." Sammut expanded CTT's operation and left at the end of 1992. Merritt served as acting managing director for almost two years, until Berneman, who had previously headed up licensing and business development for Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology, was hired in September 1995.
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Copyright 1998 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 3/17/98