November 11, 2013

LETTER: Cornell: partnering with industry

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To the Editor:

Re: “Cornell’s ‘Startup Problem,’” Blogs, Nov. 5, 2013

While Ali Hamed’s ’14 comments demonstrate enthusiasm and passion for entrepreneurship at Cornell, his statements regarding CCTEC appear to be based on a lack of understanding and/or on hearsay that may perpetuate misperceptions.

I believe Hamed is confusing “technology commercialization” with “entrepreneurship” and hence his misstatement that “Cornell has lagged so far behind in commercializing technology as compared to MIT and Stanford” [emphasis added].

Here are some specific data reported by MIT, Stanford, and Cornell to the Association of Technology Managers, respectively:

Year Program Founded: 1940; 1970; 1979

Research Expenditures ($M):  1,556; 854; 802

No. of Licenses & Options Executed: 107; 137; 182

The above data are for FY2012, the latest publicly available data.

As evidenced by the data above, Cornell is one of the most efficient universities in partnering with industry partners to develop its technologies into useful products to serve the public and to advance its mission as a land grant university.

For a glimpse of the many commercial products that our industry partners have successfully put on the market using licensed Cornell technologies, please visit: http://www.cctec.cornell.edu/technology/products.php

The lists are not comprehensive, but should give the readers a good idea of the contributions Cornell is making to the world.

I would also like to comment on Hamed’s statement that “Cornell often holds the rights to technology built by graduate students (who are getting paid by the school) and professors” as if it is the (misconceived) reason why “Cornell has lagged so far behind in commercializing technology …”  One thing that may not be obvious to the readers is that most of the research performed at Cornell is sponsored by one or more external entities, mostly the federal government. If Cornell does not elect to hold the rights on inventions arising from research funded by the government, the rights will be retained by the government and not by the graduate students and/or the professor.  If the sponsors are not the government, there usually are more demanding contractual obligations on the part of the university regarding technology rights from the funded work.  MIT and Stanford similarly hold the rights under such circumstances.

CCTEC has no record of having previous interactions with Hamed.  Thus, I do not know from what information or experience that he opined that CCTEC’s “process is complicated and difficult.” I can assure the Cornell community that Cornell’s policies and CCTEC’s process are very similar, if not identical, to that of Stanford’s and MIT’s and are very transparent. You can read about them at http://www.cctec.cornell.edu.

I do appreciate Hamed’s suggestion for CCTEC to “reach out”. That CCTEC will continue to do and improve.  For more information regarding CCTEC’s operations and process, please visit us at http://www.cctec.cornell.edu; to participate in our outreach events, please visit http://www.cctec.cornell.edu/events/index.php

Alan Paau PhD, MBA CLP

Vice Provost for Technology Transfer and Economic Development

Executive Director, CCTEC

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