July 22, 2002
Campus increasing outreach to industry
By Tim Stephens
On a sunny afternoon in June, the Chardonnay II set sail from
Santa Cruz harbor with a passenger list that included UCSC researchers
and CEOs of regional biotech and high-tech companies.
Vice chancellor for research Robert Miller (left), associate
professor of electrical engineering Ali Shakouri (center), and
Raytek CEO Cliff Warren (right) discuss opportunities for collaboration
during a leisurely cruise on the Chardonnay II. Photo:
As the 70-foot sailing yacht cruised past dolphins and sea otters under
a flawless blue sky, passengers exchanged business cards and their conversations
turned to technical subjects.
"The goal was to make new connections between UCSC and industry
and to promote collaborative research," said organizer Todd Wipke,
professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
"We have organized several events like this in the past few months
that have been very successful."
While the vast majority of funding for UCSC research comes from federal
grants, a growing number of researchers also receive some funding through
collaborative partnerships with private companies. In addition to the
funding opportunities they offer, university-industry partnerships can
help research projects move more quickly toward practical applications.
Wipke, who serves as campus liaison to the UC Office of Technology
Transfer, has been working to encourage more interest in industry partnerships.
"This campus has never done much outreach to industry, but that
is starting to change," Wipke said. "We want people in industry
to know about the opportunities for collaborative research at UCSC."
Most university-industry collaborations at UCSC involve biomedical
research or engineering and computer technology. These are also areas
in which the campus has been expanding its faculty.
Ali Shakouri, associate professor of electrical engineering, was one
faculty member who made a useful connection during the cruise on the
Chardonnay II, which was followed by dinner at the Santa Cruz
Yacht Club. Shakouri, whose work involves measuring temperatures in
computer chips, got acquainted with Cliff Warren, CEO of Raytek, a local
company that makes devices for infrared temperature measurements.
Although the highly specialized applications of Shakouri's work make
a direct collaboration with Raytek unlikely, Warren said the company
would be very interested in working with undergraduate and graduate
students involved in projects like Shakouri's that involve infrared
optics, physics, electronics, and software.
"My students would have a good background for Raytek, and [Warren]
had some good ideas for projects that they could work on at Raytek for
a senior thesis or a summer job. It would be a good experience for the
students," Shakouri said. "This kind of dialogue with local
companies is important, so I thought it was a very helpful event,"
Wipke is especially eager to increase the visibility of biomedical
research at UCSC. For a campus without a medical school, UCSC does a
surprising amount of biomedical research, he said. The campus receives
about $10 million annually in research funding from the National Institutes
of Health (NIH), making NIH the campus's second largest funding source
after the National Science Foundation.
In addition to the informal gathering Wipke organized in June, there
have also been more formal events. At a meeting at the UCSC Inn and
Conference Center in April, for example, industry representatives and
UCSC faculty gave brief presentations about their research.
One purpose of these events has been to educate both faculty and industry
about UC programs available to support collaborative partnerships. These
include the Life Sciences: Information
Technology program (LS:IT) and the Biotechnology Strategic Targets
for Alliances in Research (BioSTAR) program.
Both LS:IT and BioSTAR are UC-wide matching-grant programs that partner
industry sponsors with UC researchers. State funding for the grants
is matched at least dollar for dollar by industry sponsors. LS:IT sponsored
the events Wipke organized in April and June, and a similar meeting
in May, organized by professor of chemistry and biochemistry Anthony
Fink, was sponsored by BioSTAR.
Several UCSC researchers have received grants through the BioSTAR and
LS:IT programs. Wipke, for example, has had a drug development project
sponsored by Roche Bioscience through BioSTAR and another sponsored
by Affymax through the LS:IT program. Fink and Bakthan Singaram, also
a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, both have grants through
BioSTAR. Fink's grant is sponsored by Amgen and Singaram's by GluMetrics.
Industry collaborations offer more than just increased funding for
UC researchers. Interactions with industry researchers can contribute
significantly to a research project, Wipke said. The arrangement sometimes
gives university researchers access to valuable proprietary information
the company has not made public. In addition, graduate students gain
useful exposure to industry research, and the companies get to meet
graduate students they may be interested in recruiting.
Intellectual property issues are handled through agreements worked
out for each grant. Discoveries made through research performed at the
university are, in principle, the intellectual property of the university.
But typically the university will give an exclusive license back to
the company that sponsored the research, Wipke said. Things get more
complicated when the company does further development and modification
of an idea or product on its own.
"A lot depends on the exact nature of the research, so for each
grant there is a specific arrangement that spells out how intellectual
property is handled," Wipke said.
Robert Miller, vice chancellor for research, has proposed a Technology
Enterprise Center at UCSC to manage intellectual property issues, as
well as to facilitate the development of new ventures based on the campus's
"University-industry partnerships offer benefits to both parties,
and I am very interested to see UCSC develop more interactions with
industry," Miller said.
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