Arizona’s three state universities should do more to market the inventions of their staffers, a state auditor’s study says. The new report by the Arizona Auditor General’s Office said all three schools need to increase their use of incentives to encourage more faculty members to get involved in technology transfer programs.
Auditor General Debbie Davenport, in her report to the Legislature, said that could include credit toward promotion and tenure.
But Davenport said her staff concluded that the problem is not limited to getting staffers to identify potential marketable inventions.
She said the universities need to do a better job of actually marketing the inventions, as well as negotiating deals with private industry.
The presidents of all three schools generally agreed with all of the recommendations.
Technology transfer is designed to move faculty academic research to industry for further development, with the ultimate goal of making new products and services available to the public.
Davenport said perhaps the most successful — and visible — example of this was research in the 1970s at the University of Florida that eventually led to the production of Gatorade. That invention, she said, has generated more than $80 million for the school.
She said while that’s “not typical’’ — only one in 4,850 university technology transfers ever produces big dollars for the institution — more can be done in Arizona.
The first problem, she said, is “disclosures,’’ where faculty members declare to university officials that they may have something marketable.
Davenport said Arizona State University does relatively well in this category, with 154 disclosures from its $132 million research budget.
By contrast, the University of Arizona’s $535 million in research — the 13th-largest budget among public universities in the entire country — produced just 90 disclosures.
But on the marketing side, the report says the number of ASU inventions actually licensed has dropped in the past two years, although the school still outperforms similar institutions.