SD32 - Developing Virginia's Research & Development Strategy and Improving the Intellectual Property Policies of our Universities and Federal Labs

Executive Summary:
The recommended Research & Development (R&D) strategy for Virginia is grounded in the notion that Virginia's future economic competitiveness will stem from its ability to innovate and then commercialize. These skills, in turn, depend on developing the highest quality intellectual property and human capital. The major avenues for developing intellectual property and human capital are by performing research and developing products in federal, university/non-profit or industrial installations.

Currently, the most propulsive economic clusters in Virginia for innovation and growth are information technology & telecommunications, aerospace, and biotechnology. In addition, in each of these sectors there is an advanced manufacturing or process component. (See report in Appendix A.) These closely track the list of target technology sectors developed independently by the Virginia Research and Technology Advisory Commission (VRTAC).

In order to ensure Virginia's continued technology leadership, VRTAC and Virginia's Center for innovative Technology (CIT) recommend the following steps as the basis for Virginia's R&D strategy:

1.) Establish VRTAC as a permanent, funded body, supporting the growth and development of Virginia's R&D infrastructure.

2.) Permanently appropriate the Commonwealth Research and Technology Fund (CTRF), expanding it to a level competitive with other states over the next two budget cycles.

3.) Provide R&D tax credits to Virginia companies for cooperative research with our universities, specifically targeting propulsive technology clusters.

4.) Provide economic development incentives that will encourage the relocation or expansion of R&D facilities.

5.) Change existing Intellectual Property law to simplify and streamline University - Industry interactions.

The purpose of this study is to suggest improved policies and procedures that will lead to an increase in private sector investment in R&D performed in Virginia's universities and also enhance the environment and opportunities for creating innovative start-up companies driving new economic growth in the Commonwealth.

The Intellectual Property (IP) Subcommittee of Virginia's Research and Technology Advisory Commission (VRTAC) reviewed IP policies and procedures in place at Virginia's public research universities with the view towards improving the linkages between the research institutions and the private sector. The IP subcommittee was represented by VP-Ievel R&D management at four of Virginia's research universities, senior management from three companies in the private sector, legal counsel from a major federal laboratory, and a senior manager from Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology.

Briefly summarized, the subcommittee considered and debated a broad range of IP issues and ultimately developed a series of recommendations. These recommendations should be recognized as only the beginning of an evolutionary process for improving management of Virginia's IP resources:

1. Research universities should develop draft "common term sheets" for both industry-sponsored research agreements and intellectual property agreements so that there is a common base from which industry/university relationships can be built and negotiated.

2. To simplify regulation and to speed up the development of industry/university partnerships, the Virginia legislature should delete all sentences beyond the first in § 23-4.4 of the Virginia Code, allowing the Universities' Boards of Visitors the ability to assign companies the ownership of Intellectual Property developed at the Universities.

3. CIT should complete and fully implement a user-friendly, website based, statewide comprehensive Intellectual Property database, including the Commonwealth's research universities and federal laboratories.

4. To improve access to Virginia-developed technologies, especially those at smaller institutions, the Academic Licensing Community of Virginia (ALCOVe) should be provided with Commonwealth resources and institutional support to broaden awareness of its existence and user access to its database and other intellectual property information.

5. There should be a Commonwealth-wide Intellectual Property Coordinator, funded by and located at CIT.

6. VRTAC should organize and sponsor a workshop in the late spring of 2001 to enhance awareness and understanding of intellectual property opportunities and management throughout the Commonwealth.