While UCSB has felt the constraints of campus budget cuts, the Office of Technology Transfer has continued to issue patents and reap the rewards generated from new technologies.
According to the 2007 UC Technology Transfer Annual Report, UCSB received $4,590,000 in total licensing income from 572 invention portfolios last year. System wide, UCSB’s Laser Water Atomic Microscope was the 19th highest earner last year, bringing in $752,000 in revenue for the UC.
William Tucker, Executive Director of the UC Office of Technology Transfer, said the UC system received millions in licensing revenue for 2008.
“Last fiscal year, UC researchers reported just under 1,500 inventions to the various technology transfer offices around the system,” Tucker said. “System wide, the UC received $129 million in licensing income in the last fiscal year. The amount includes fees, royalties and reimbursement for patent protection costs that we get from our licensees.”
Tucker said the UC Patent Policy – which decides the allocation of each invention’s revenue – allots 35 percent of net royalties to the inventor of the technology, and pumps the remaining 65 percent back into the campus for research and discretionary funds.
Despite the profit generated by such technologies, Sherylle Mills Englander, Director of the UCSB Office of Technology & Industry Alliances, said the reason for patenting UCSB inventions is not simply for the financial benefits, but rather to provide helpful resources for the public.
“There is a misperception that the only reason universities do this is to get millions of dollars, but we really are doing it to improve products,” Englander said. “Breaking even is a good place to be, because at the end of the day we’re just trying to get our ideas out there to make your life better by advancing technologies.”
Englander said many patented inventions lead to increased job opportunities, illustrated by local companies such as Veeco, CytomX and Sirigen, all of which can trace their roots to UCSB.
“Startup companies develop the UC’s technology and get it to the point where they can merge with another company and that product can become a reality,” Englander said. “Every job in the buildings of these companies wouldn’t be there without UCSB’s inventions and licensing.”
A recent and important patent, Englander said, was Victoria Broje’s Groovy Drum Skimmer. The Bren School graduate student’s creation can potentially remove 300 percent more oil from the ocean in the event of an oil spill, Englander said.
“Our biggest potential impact in the next few years is our Solid State Lighting and Energy Center,” Englander said. “Their predominant focus is on LEDs. They use 10 percent of the energy and they never burn out. Imagine if you could replace every stoplight in the community with LEDs how much energy you would save.”
Adam Jones, Associate Director of Licensing & Business Development, said although patents are quite expensive, they are likely to be reimbursed and the rewards come in the form of new technology and jobs.
“Patents can cost anywhere from $20,000-$30,000 or more,” Jones said. “The patent costs come out of the UC budget and we attempt to recoup those costs when the patent licensee returns the cost. Overall, our major goal is to get the research that goes on here, that is potentially patentable or commercially attractive, to benefit to the general public.”