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  February 11, 2002

New R&D Unit to Help
Create Business Start-Ups
Karen A. Grava

A for-profit entity has been revitalized to help the University create start-up businesses using technologies developed by faculty.

The University of Connecticut Research and Development Corporation will help evaluate technologies that can become potential businesses, recruit venture capital to start the businesses, and help provide consulting sources to get the businesses going, says Bruce Carlson, special assistant to the University president.

Carlson, who will act as interim president of the Research and Development Corporation, while a president is recruited, says the research and development corporation will work closely with the Center for Science and Technology Commercialization to determine which of the nearly 100 invention disclosures reviewed each year by that office could be developed into businesses.

In 1999, the University reorganized its efforts to commercialize research by establishing the Center for Science and Technology Commercialization, which works closely with the both the UConn Health Center and the University of Connecticut Research Foundation.

The Research and Development Corporation was established in the 1980s, Carlson says, but lacked capitalization and remained dormant. During the last two years, the University began to look at how best to increase commercialization and patents from research and increase public-private partnerships. After careful study, the Research and Development Corporation was revitalized.

Carlson says he anticipates that nine or 10 of the inventions reviewed annually will have the potential to be developed into businesses, and four or five will actually survive the first screening, the development of a business plan. "It is our hope that then one or two will actually get final approval and get launched as a business," he says.

Revenue from the incubator businesses that are started will be split into thirds between the professor, the department, and the University, with the Research and Development Corporation overseeing the equity portfolio derived from the business start-up and licensing, Carlson says.

One of the other components required for the success of a business start-up will be incubator space - space for the business close to the University. The University's first five incubator biotech labs will be ready this summer when the second phase of the Agricultural Biotechnology Building opens.

Additional incubator space will be developed at all campuses of the university, Carlson says. The space will be centrally managed to provide for uniform policy implementation. "Research shows that there is a 70 to 80 percent better chance of survival for businesses that have housing on university campuses than for those that don't," Carlson says.

Invention disclosures have grown at UConn from 45 per year in 1996 to a projected 95 in 2001, compared with 20 to 88 at comparable institutions such as Tufts, the University of Houston, Clemson and Virginia Commonwealth Universities, says Carlson. Patent applications have grown from 10 in 1996 to 26 each in 1999 and 2000, and 25 are projected for this year. That compares with 7 to 68 at comparable institutions. Licensing revenue is up from $432,579 in 1996 to a projected $650,000 this year, he says.

The UConn Foundation Inc. is the sole shareholder of the Research and Development Corporation, which has a six-member board of directors each appointed for a one-year term. The board chair is Laura Estes '77 MBA, a retired senior vice president at Aetna Life Insurance and Annuity Co.'s Strategic Business Unit.

Other members of the corporation board include:

  • Anthony J. Esposito '65, president and chief executive officer of Adtek Information Systems Inc. of New York City, which provides integrated software products and customized software solutions to the financial services industry;

  • Emmett Murtha '60, of Stamford, founding principal and president and chief executive officer of Fairfield Resources International, an intellectual property management firm that helps client manager patents, copyrights and trade secrets;

  • Ronald W. Schuler, shareholder with the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll of Pittsburgh, Pa., and co-chair of the firm's biotechnology group. His areas of practice include life sciences, public offerings, venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance. He often acts as a consultant to European-based small and medium-sized technology companies interested in entering the U.S. market. He has also served as an advisor to the University on issues of technology commercialization;

  • Harold Schwenk Jr., former chairman, chief executive officer, and president of BGS Systems Inc. in Waltham, Mass., which was acquired by BMC Software Inc. in 1998. Schwenk established the Harold S. Schwenk Sr. Distinguished Chair in Chemistry and the Fund for Innovative Education in Science.

  • Patrick Sheehan '67, Hartford manager and vice president/investments of A.G. Edwards and Sons, a national brokerage firm. In addition to having had a 30-year career in broadcasting, Sheehan has served as chair of the Annual Fund, chair of the Foundation Board, and president of the University Advocates. He is a director of the Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut, an advisor to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, and chair of the board of the Connecticut Public Affairs Network.

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