U. of Maryland to Count Patents and Commercialization in Tenure Reviews

June 13, 2012

The University System of Maryland has adopted a new policy to formally give credit in tenure and promotion decisions for faculty work that leads to patents and other intellectual property applied in technology transfer.

The new policy, approved in April by the Board of Regents, is part of the system's broader push to promote the commercialization of academic research.

Maryland institutions receive a lot of research money but have been "very run of the mill" when it comes to transforming that research into useful products and services, said William E. (Brit) Kirwan, chancellor of the system, in an interview on Wednesday. "The culture of commercializing intellectual property just hasn't existed in Maryland."

In adopting a policy recognizing "activities that result in the generation and application of intellectual property through technology transfer," Maryland follows Texas A&M University and about two dozen other institutions that now formally recognize such activities for tenure.

In December a conference in Washington of university presidents and venture capitalists recommended the adoption of such a policy. Participants at the conference also recommended granting sabbaticals for faculty members to develop inventions into commercial products. Mr. Kirwan said the Maryland system had adopted that idea too. The new Maryland policies were already in the works before the conference, he said, but that event was a "further catalyst."

The Maryland system in 2010 set itself the 10-year goal of creating 325 companies based on academic research or helped along by university economic-development programs. Mr. Kirwan said the university was mindful that such a goal carries risks: In a push to meet the goal, companies could be formed for the sake of creating companies, even if they were not sustainable businesses.

Correction (6/18/2012, 1:23 p.m.): This article originally misstated when the new policies were adopted by the University System of Maryland. The Board of Regents approved the policies in April; final approval by the board is not expected in a June 23 vote. The article has been updated to reflect this correction.