BSAC holds an annual 3-day in-depth research review on campus. During this time, approximately 100 projects from members and researchers are discussed. Members choose the two papers of greatest interest to them. In the past, papers on microfluidic valves and pumps, the synthesis of carbon nanotubes, biomimetic imaging sensors, and semiconductor-based fabrication processes for MEMS were of high interest and quality.
Huggins continued his presentation by discussing the implications of being an NSF IUCRC. Center members and other campus organizations recognize the credibility bestowed by the association with NSF. Another positive implication of being an IUCRC is the legacy of operating guidelines. Dennis Gray of the University of North Carolina has edited a book on how to manage an IUCRC. The guidelines help managers operate the center, and they also shield the center and its researchers from sometimes arbitrary university policy.
Seed funding from NSF ranges from about $200,000 to about $400,000 per year at UC Berkeley. (The amount depends on the number of researchers involved.) Later on, an IUCRC is expected to become self-sufficient, and funding to cover administrative expenses—a maintenance fee of sorts—should drop to a nominal amount, $30,000. This funding is not large amount, especially for a larger IUCRC. The directors of all 50 centers meet annually in Washington, D.C., to compare lessons learned and discuss other issues. The method of operation varies widely from center to center around the country. Research topics at the smaller centers tend to be driven by the member companies. Members of the larger centers may not have any say on research directions. Instead, they show their support by renewing their annual membership. A center might serve as a research compass for its member companies, helping point them in the direction of productive research.
Huggins began the next section of his presentation by discussing vehicles for collaboration. The obvious collaboration vehicle for the BSAC consists of member company discussions with the researchers. Central to such discussions, which go beyond a simple description or presentation of results, is the forging of good relationships. Member companies hire students for both summer internships and full-time employment after graduation. Huggins has observed business relationships develop out of these associations.
According to Huggins, intellectual property could be one of the most divisive issues in collaborative relationships such as are found in an IUCRC. However, UC Berkeley, probably like most other universities, has a licensing department that handles all licensing activity on campus. Such a department allows a firewall to be erected between the center and the licensing group. This helps isolate the researcher from the member companies so that their collaborative relationship will not be harmed by licensing issues that arise. Members of the center, however, have the privilege of a first look at research that is ready for publishing or possible patenting. Center members have 90 days to look at any possible patents or publications before release. They must respond during this period if they are interested in being involved in the patent, license, or auction of any technology.
Another collaborative vehicle that has proved successful for BSAC is the concept of experts “in residence.” Center members send individuals to campus as visiting fellows. An individual spends 1 or 2 years working either on a project reflecting his or her own interest or in a research group as one of the UC Berkeley faculty. Huggins described it is as a phenomenal way for an individual to become immersed in a broad technology area.