California, Berkeley, on the environmentally benign manufacturing of semiconductors. It was an effort jointly funded by the NSF and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC). SRC, a cooperative effort funded by the semiconductor companies, had a business-oriented culture. The industry had a roadmap it used to fund research that it adhered to rigorously. Hurt negotiated with SRC to become involved in an NSF center. There were some challenges in establishing trust between the participants, but the effort became a true partnership, with government, industry and academia working together to do great things.
Hurt then described the NSF IUCRCs, which are different in scope from the ERCs and STCs described previously. They are actually consortia of member companies. NSF provides seed money and use of the NSF name. The 50 centers involve over 100 universities and 400 other organizations. NSF funds the effort with $5 million. Member companies invest $27 million. The directors of the 50 centers meet annually to discuss lessons learned, intellectual property issues, technology transfer, and how to deal with member companies who pose problems.
Each industry partner pays to participate. The level of participation depends on the amount a company has paid and on the specific center. The center itself owns the intellectual property, but every company that was a member of the center at the time of the discovery is allowed a royalty-free license to use the patents. Companies become involved primarily for the precompetitive research work, but the patents and innovations do bring business.
One interesting aspect of the centers is that faculty members who want to publish their work are required to inform the member companies 90 days before they submit their publication. If a patent is likely, the companies will place a hold, but if they do not respond in 90 days, the publication may be submitted. (Hurt said that the presentation from John Huggins, next on the agenda, would provide further information on the program).
Hurt’s presentation was followed by a few questions. When asked how the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) felt about the IUCRC program, Hurt responded that OMB liked its leveraging aspects. And while it does not like funding to last for 10 or 12 years or more, OMB accepts the IUCRC concept. Someone else asked if Hurt believed there was any ideological bias against these types of collaborative centers on the part of the current administration. Hurt replied that the program had been in existence for many years and had faced several administrations. The program costs only $5 million per year, so it remains small enough to be accepted. Another attendee said it would be interesting to know how many Ph.D.’s had been funded through the IUCRC program. Hurt said NSF had the data on this, but he didn’t have it on hand. Information is also available on the number of patents, licenses, centers, involved companies, and degrees awarded. Hurt did mention that although NSF was not involved in workforce development, some of the outcomes of the centers were related to business development.
Another NSF program mentioned by Hurt was the Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) program, which funds academic institutions to partner with the private sector to transform knowledge in a particular subject area. Workforce initiatives are allowed in this program as are technology transfer, commercialization, and infrastructure development. There are many partnerships in this program, including 25 with national laboratories and 50 with companies. For example, a small business in Maryland partners with federal laboratories