Napolitano removes barrier to tech investments, forms new advisory council
UC President Janet Napolitano announced on June 26 that she has rescinded a policy that barred the university from investing directly in companies that commercialize technology that has emerged through UC research.
The president also announced the formation of the UC Innovation Council, an outside group of advisors who will support the university’s many efforts in technology commercialization. The group, whose members will include a cross-section of investment and business executives, venture capitalists and technology experts, will meet for the first time in August.
“These measures are key to supporting and expanding the entrepreneurial culture on our campuses, and enhancing the innovation ecosystem at the University of California,” Napolitano said. “The technology and companies incubated at UC have a direct and critical impact on the state’s economic growth, and our continued support is integral to our university’s public mission.”
Rescinding the Guidelines on University-Industry Relations Policy, first issued in 1989, allows UC to take equity in companies or services that UC has supported, including through campus incubators or other facilities. The change also permits UC to make direct financial investments in such companies and services.
In tandem with the rescission, Napolitano also approved a pilot project that allows campuses to accept equity in start-up companies, rather than charge them fees, for accessing university services.
Several campuses have, or are creating, “incubators” in UC-owned or leased space where fledgling UC-associated companies can start commercial ventures that promote the practical application of university research. Accepting equity helps the start-ups by avoiding draining them of cash and also allows the university to participate in financial returns. The university currently does not have a formal policy regarding accepting equity when companies take advantage of incubators or other university services, and the pilot project will provide an operational framework consistent with UC governance and risk management strategies that allows campuses to do so.
These moves follow an earlier recommendation from a systemwide working group tasked with determining what revisions should be made to the university’s intellectual property policies to better support UC’s research enterprise and reflect current university practices. This and other recommendations were made after consultation with faculty and administrators throughout UC.