Local higher ed missing the tech transfer boat

January 9, 2006


I'm calling for an investigation in this town. Just how different is Silicon Valley from Chicago? Are we doing enough to commercialize our homegrown research and development? To start my investigation I decided to download a book from Audible.com, and listen using my Apple iPod mini. It makes me feel state-of-the-art here in the Midwest. While I run each day on the treadmill, I've been listening to The Google Story by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post writer David Vise and Mark Malseed, a contributor to the Post and the Boston Herald.

Google's that California start-up founded by two Stanford University Ph.D. students, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Google IPO'd Aug. 18, 2004 at $85 per share and was headed north of $445 per share when I last checked.

Entrepreneurial environment

What stopped me dead on my treadmill was this quote about the entrepreneurial environment at Stanford University: "The university did not see a conflict between academics and financial rewards. Its primary mission was to train the next generation of professors and academic researchers. But it had also established itself as an incubator for some of the world's most successful technology companies, from Hewlett-Packard to Sun Microsystems."

Could you imagine such words spoken about Northwestern, IIT, UIC, DePaul, Loyola or the University of Chicago? The University of Chicago doesn't even have an engineering school.

Could you name three break-through companies incubated on these campuses? I'm sure there are some, but there are no Googles.

Vise and Malseed describe Stanford's office of technology licensing this way: "Unlike MIT and some of the other leading research institutions, Stanford made it extremely easy for students in its Ph.D. program to work on potential commercial endeavors using university resources. Its office of technology licensing also took a broad view of its role.

"I never want that to become a barrier to technology transfer," says Stanford President John Hennessy. "We have an environment at Stanford that promotes entrepreneurship and risk-taking research.

Hennessy is now a Google board member.

University of Illinois President Joseph White had some positive comments on tech transfer when he addressed the City Club of Chicago last year, but nothing as bold as Hennessy. Few in the audience even took note of White's remarks on tech transfer. They were more concerned about tuition levels at the University of Illinois.

There's a search going on for a new president at the University of Chicago. Maybe the search committee should consider Hennessy. I hope experience catalyzing tech transfer is a search criteria. If the presidential search committee is in doubt, members can check out The Google Story. So should you.

China Inc.

The Economic Club of Chicago hosts three experts on China's emerging prowess at a lunch forum Tuesday at the Palmer House Hilton. Speakers are retired Motorola CEO Christopher Galvin and China Inc. author Ted Fishman. Bill Daley, JPMorgan Chase Midwest chairman and former U.S. Commerce secretary, will moderate the program titled "China: Its Real Challenges and Yours."

Digital horizon

What innovations should you expect on the digital horizon?

Tomorrow night the MIT Enterprise Forum hosts its sixth annual Innovation and Technology Forecast at the offices of Gardner Carton & Douglas. Speakers include nanotech author and guru Dan Ratner; DiamondCluster co-founder and author Chunka Mui; Op2mize President Geoffrey Kasselman; and Midwest Entrepreneur Forum founder Jerry Mitchell.

11 local tech execs honored

Eleven Illinois IT executives are among Computerworld's 2006 premier 100 IT Leaders. The top techies are: Wheels Inc. CIO Lawrence Buettner; Smith Bucklin CIO John Fisher; Career Education Corp. CIO Mark Griesbaum; Boeing CIO Scott Griffin; Network Services CIO Michael Hugos; Health Care Service Corp. CIO Patrick Moroney; Honeywell Automation IT Infrastructure Director Michael Parisi; Motorola Vice President Toby Eduardo Redshaw; Grainger chief technologist George Rimnac; Allstate Senior Vice President Michael Roche; and former Aramark CIO William Westrate.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.



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