TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AT TRIBAL COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES: A DELPHI STUDY
Table of Contents
List of Tables xi
Chapter 1 Introduction 1
Background of the Problem 2
Statement of the Problem 3
Purpose of the Study 4
Significance of the Problem 5
Significance of the Study 6
Significance of the Study to Leadership 7
Nature of the Study 8
Overview of the research method 9
Overview of the design appropriateness 10
Research Questions 11
Theoretical Framework 12
Definition of Terms 13
Scope and Limitations 15
Chapter 2: Review of the Literature 18
List of Tables
Table 1 6
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
Technology transfer is the act of commercializing research project results through contracts with private industry partners (Powers & Campbell, 2009; Bloom, 2011). In addition, technology transfer can also resonate from private industry and government agencies into higher education institutions for further research and development (Powers & Campbell, 2009). There appears to be a lack of formal mechanisms to protect and transfer the intellectual property that result from research at tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), and therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore the issues surrounding technology transfer at TCUs.
The focus of this study is on technology transfer activities at TCUs, and through the research activities the potential issues surrounding technology transfer within the target group of 37 TCUs will be explored. Technology transfer occurs at TCUs just as in other institution of higher learning, but the lack of revenue-generating technology transfer agreements needs further exploration. According to Burnside and Witkin (2008) there are barriers preventing collaborative agreements between universities and industry in regard to technology transfer. The secondary objective of this study is to develop cost and efficiency models that can improve technology transfer functions for TCUs.
1.2 Background of the Problem
Research and innovation is increasing within the nation’s TCUs. The intellectual property produced by TCUs that may have commercial applications or other economic benefits appears to be underutilized (Powers & Campbell, 2009; Heher, 2005). The intellectual property developed at TCUs may be transferred to the private sector through other methods. The purpose of this research study is to determine the issues pertaining to technology transfer and identify approaches that can best provide TCUs with expanded opportunities for building external relationships as well as revenue from joint ventures, collaborations, spin-offs, or licensing agreements. The focus upon revenue in technology transfer activities should not be the primary reason, as according to Golob (2006) universities that strive for revenue generation produce fewer spin-offs than those institutions that focus on local economic development.
The majority of TCUs serve the residents of remote Indian Reservations and in most cases TCUs drive the economic development within their communities (Cunningham et al., 2000). This research examines various technology transfer approaches that TCUs can use to enhance their institutional research capabilities and local economic impact. According to Drucker and Goldstein (2007) “Technology transfer programs, university-industry partnerships, and educational curricula tailored to match the skill demands of local knowledge-based industries provide just a few examples of such economic development programs” (p. 21). The economic development opportunities that TCUs contribute to their local economies and that are associated with technology transfer must be further explored. According to (Fogarty, 2007) attention to the local economy by TCUs is a primary concern and any benefit that a TCU can make to the local community is in the institution’s best interest.
1.3 Statement of the Problem
Based upon the current literature, there is a significant gap in the amount of information in regard to technology transfer and the protection of intellectual property that results from basic and applied research at TCUs. The specific problem is the lack of policy and protection in regard to technology transfer at TCUs. The existence of formal and informal technology transfer processes at mainstream universities will be explored to determine how these processes can assist the needs of TCUs (Markman, Siegel, & Wright, 2008). The quality, quantity, and cultural significance of basic research at TCUs are increasing(Corbyn, 2011). The study will explore how TCU technology transfer may provide economic, educational, and other societal benefits to the reservation communities. In addition, TCUs need to consider policy and procedures to protect culturally sensitive findings that may be part of a research project.
Technology transfers not only flows out from institutions, but technology transfer can also flow back into institutions through joint ventures, collaborative research projects, or contracts from government agencies, other institutions, and private corporations. The Salish Kootenai College (SKC) established an educational partnership with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) that will support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and research related to digital acoustic sensors (Sanders, 2011).
1.4 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this Delphi study is to investigate technology transfer activities at TCUs, explore conditions that contribute to potential technology transfer, and present a cost and efficiency model that can improve technology transfer functions for TCUs. The Delphi approach is the best design for this study because the format permits the ability to survey the opinions of key stakeholders at the TCUs, such as presidents, vice-presidents, and researchers about issues surrounding technology transfer. Technology transfer policies could provide a TCU with expanded opportunities to build external relationships and revenue from joint ventures, collaborations, spin-offs, or licensing agreements. Formalizing the technology transfer process at TCUs could provide a catalyst to appropriate economic development on the reservation (Contreras, 2007). In addition, policy can be established to protect culturally sensitive findings that may be part of a research project.
The study will involve all 37 TCU members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). AIHEC is an organization created by the first six TCUs in 1972 to advocate, lobby, and support the interests of American Indian higher education. Membership in AIHEC is restricted to tribally chartered TCUs and headquarters for the organization is in Washington D.C. The 37 AIHEC member institutions targeted in this study are located in 15 states with a majority of the TCUs in the Midwest.
The Delphi approach in this study will begin with a survey to gather initial information in regard to current technology transfer activities at 37 TCUs. The initial participation group will be TCU administrators, researchers, and instructors from all 37 TCUs. This initial survey will be a web-based questionnaire designed to gauge the level of understanding of technology transfer. A second survey will be conducted to further explore areas of consensus among TCU participants. The third and final survey will be interviews with key TCU stakeholders to drill down on specific issues pertaining to technology transfer. The results will be analyzed against formal technology transfer approaches to determine possible methods that would be appropriate for TCUs. Leadership at TCUs may find this study significant because innovation and research is a growing area and without explicit knowledge about technology transfer policy and strategy needs to be part the institution’s strategic plan.
1.5 Significance of the study
The lack of technology transfer agreements within the TCU community indicates a need for an in-depth study into what may be hindering this process. The reason for exploring TCU current technology transfer activities and the attitudes and opinions of TCU stakeholders is to determine effective mechanisms TCUs can use for technology transfer. The leadership at some TCUs may influence the type and level of research at the institution. The results of this study may provide TCU leadership with a better understanding of technology transfer and the benefits and issues surrounding the mechanisms and procedures.
There has been no study on technology transfer at TCUs and given that technology transfer has been a part of mainstream universities since the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 (Duemer, 2007) the exploration of the possibilities for TCUs is needed. The level of technology transfer at universities within the United States has increased substantially after the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 (Siegel, Veugelers, & Wright, 2007; Dai, Popp, & Bretschneider, 2005).
The Bayh-Dole Act provided higher education institutions with protection that reduced the risk of theft and misuse of intellectual property that resulted from research funded by federal sources (U. S. Government Accountability Office, 1998). Developing a technology transfer model, which is a secondary objective of this study, can provide TCUs with benefits beyond immediate financial return; this model also has the potential to increase enrollment, boost collaborations, expand degree offerings, and enhance the reputations of these institutions (Lowe & Quick, 2005).
Understanding the issues and procedures involved with technology transfer from the perspective of faculty and administrators may cause TCU leadership to further investigate how technology transfer can benefit not only their institutions but also their community. The 37 TCUs in this study have leaders with varying styles, backgrounds, and visions. Through this Delphi study, leadership traits will be explored to determine the effect upon technology transfer.
The study is significant to all Native Americans as technology transfer can lead to local economic, educational, and societal benefits. As research activity continues to grow within the TCUs, the opportunity for collaborations with industry also continues to grow. The exposure of the quality of the research will need to be disseminated to attract the attention of industry leaders.
1.6 Research questions
The research questions are designed to solicit feedback that can provide perspective toward answering the questions. The below given research questions guided this study;
RQ1: Has intellectual property from TCU research projects transferred to the commercial sector?
RQ2: Does the TCU leadership promote technology transfer opportunities from research projects?
RQ3: What would be an appropriate technology transfer process for a TCU?
RQ4: What local economic benefits could result from technology transfer activities at TCUs?
1.7 Research aim and objectives
The purpose of this study is to investigate technology transfer activities at TCUs, explore conditions that contribute to potential technology transfer, and present a cost and efficiency model that can improve technology transfer functions for TCUs.
In order to attain the set research aim, the researcher will pursues the following study objectives:
To understand whether intellectual property from TCUs research projects has been transferred to the commercial sector
To establish the potential local benefits that could result from technology transfer activities at TCUs
To find out whether TCU leadership promotes technology transfer opportunities from research projects
To establish an appropriate technology transfer process for a TCU
CHAPTER 2: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Mitasiunas (2011) notes that innovation process has two important components, which are invention and successful implementation. Thus, knowledge and successful diffusion of the knowledge resulting in the invention or development of new products or services is very important. Mitasiunas (2011) states that often inventions are made in institutions of higher learning as well as research institutes. These inventions have to be turned into successful innovations by transferring them to organizations that have adequate marketing experience, global presence, as well as real implementation power, a process known as technology transfer (Vyakarnam, 2012).
Technology transfer entails transfer of technology from academia to industry and from “internal corporate technology to the international technology level” (Mitasiunas 2011, p. 5). Mitasiunas (2011, p. 5) defines technology transfer as “the process of sharing of or acquiring/providing/licensing skills, knowledge, technologies, intellectual property, technology development personnel or entire teams, methods of manufacturing, samples of manufacturing and facilities among governments, companies, research institutions and other organizations to enable accessibility of scientific and technological developments to a wider range of users who can then further develop and exploit the technology into new products, processes, applications, materials or services”. Campbell and Powers (2009) define technology transfer simply as the act of commercializing research project results through contracts with private industry partners. This is similar to academic technology transfer which the University of California (2009) defines as the transfer of research results from the institutions of higher learning to the commercial marketplace for the public benefit. It can also come from the private industries or government agencies into the institutions of higher learning for further research and development (Campbell & Powers, 2009).
The University of California (2009) states that the transfer of new technology from laboratories of institutions of higher learning to the private sector has had a long history and has taken diverse forms. Nezu (2007) and Reichman (2005) note that university-industry partnerships in the field of science and technology face complex issues which range from publication of research results, technology/information exchange and denials of access research outcomes, data or materials, to contractual agreements. Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), which are chartered by their respective tribal governments (American Indian College Fund, 2012), are a special group of the institutions of higher learning affected by these issues surrounding technology transfer. As noted by Nezu (2007) protection and licensing of intellectual property rights have been identified as a major problem facing institutions of higher as regards technology transfer. According to Vyakarnam (2012) although many institutions of higher learning have set up technology transfer offices, most of these offices are often under resourced and managed by people without any particular commercialization expertise to effectively manage their intellectual property rights.
2.2 History of tribal colleges and universities (TCUs)
According to Chandler (2010)the first tribal colleges were established in the late 1960s following the civil rights movement and the American Indian ‘self-determination’ movement of the 1960s, which advocated for provision of post-secondary education which would strengthen reservations as well as tribal culture without assimilation. According to the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators (2010) they were set up with an aim of increasing access to higher education for the youth living in reservations, who according to the committee had no other means of accessing education in higher learning institutions. Therefore, their main goal is to provide higher education for Native American students without compelling them to adopt mainstream white culture and that is why they are primarily located in rural reservations (Chandler, 2010; Gipp & Warner, 2009). Their curriculum focuses on English literature, mathematics, science and technology. TCUs “combine personal attention with cultural relevance in such a way as to encourage American Indians, especially those living on reservations, to overcome the barriers in higher education” (National Caucus of Native American State Legislators 2010, p. 11).
Most of the TCUs began as affiliate colleges of mainstream colleges and universities through articulation agreements (Gipp & Warner, 2009). Chandler (2010) notes that although these institutions have unique history, each one of them began as a two-year institution with open admissions policies. Today, several of them offer four-year degrees while a few offer graduate and master’s degrees, but most of them have remained two-year institutions offering certificate and associate degree programs (Chandler, 2010; Gipp & Warner, 2009). The first tribal college to be set was the Navajo Nation, now Diné College, in 1968 (American Indian College Fund, 2012; Gipp & Warner, 2009). Soon, other tribal colleges followed in South Dakota, North Dakota and California (AIHEC, 2010). By the 1980 20 TCUs had already been established (AIHEC, 2010), and by 2010, there were 36 TCUs in 14 states (AIHEC, 2010; Harmon, 2012). Initially, not much scientific research were conducted in the TCUs as most programs were vocational training focused for certificate levels, and besides, classes were frequently taught by tribal elders as well as other non-traditional faculty members as the institutions sought to promote tribal culture and local economic development (Gipp & Warner, 2009)AIHEC, 1999). However, today these institutions have become centers of Indian research as noted by (AIHEC, 1999). The impact of the Bayh-Dole Act has had an influence in promoting research activities in these institutions (University of California, 2009).
2.3 History of institutions of higher learning technology transfer
The University of California (2009) reports that technology transfer, which is closely linked to fundamental research activities in institutions of higher learning, began as early as the 1920s. By early 1920s, some universities in the US were already “moving science from the laboratory to industrial commercialization”, and that is when academic technology became a formal concept (University of California 2009). The concept is said to have originated from a report that was entitled “Science – The Endless Frontier” that was written by Vannevar Bush for the president in 1945 (Atkinson & Pelfrey, 2010, p. 2; University of California 2009). According to the University of California (2009) at that time, the success of the Manhattan Project had shown the significance of research to the US national defense. The report recognized the importance of university research in enhancing the economy as it would increase the flow of knowledge to the industry by providing support of basic science (Atkinson & Pelfrey, 2010). It is this report that inspired the continuing increase in funding of university research by the federal government (Atkinson & Pelfrey, 2010). It also stimulated the establishment of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health, and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) (University of California, 2009). The 1960s and 1970s saw significant increase in researches; however, there was also the debate on federal government patent policies (Flening, 2010). People were concerned that there was no government-wide policy as regards ownership of inventions that were made by government contractors as well as grantees under the federal funding (University of California, 2009). The lack of government-wide policies led to inconsistencies in policies as well as practices adopted by the various funding agencies and this in turn gave rise to “a very limited flow of government-funded inventions to the private sector” (University of California 2009). Flening (2010) and the University of California (2009) note that the federal government held ownership to about 28,000 patents in 1980, and out of these, “less than 5% were licensed to industry for development of commercial products”.
Part of this problem was because of the restrictions that were imposed on the licensing of new technologies as well as reluctance on the side of the agencies to authorize ownership of inventions to rest on universities as well as other grantees (University of California, 2009). The federal government was not willing to give up ownership of federally funded inventions to the organization that had made the invention except in exceptional cases where the organization would petition and the case having gone a lengthy and difficult waiver process (Flening, 2010; University of California, 2009). This meant that the government retained title making these inventions available through non-exclusive license to any organization that or person who wanted to use them (Flening, 2010). As expected, companies were not willing to invest in and develop new products since competitors could also obtain licenses which would allow them to manufacture and sell the same products (Flening, 2010; University of California, 2009). Consequently, in 1979, legislators and administrators concluded that it would be beneficial to enact a policy that would allow “the licensing of new inventions from universities to businesses that would, in turn, manufacture the resulting products in the U.S” (University of California 2009). This led to the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, allowing colleges and universities to immediately begin to institute policies and systems, and to develop and strengthen their internal expertise required to effectively administer their research commercialization related activities (Flening, 2010). Flening (2010) notes that since then, the US Congress has passed several policies to deal with technology transfer as well as means of promoting it.
Technology transfer has been an integral part of research in mainstream universities since the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980 (Atkinson & Pelfrey, 2010). Flening (2010, p. 41) notes that prior to the 1980s, most institutions of higher learning had “avoided direct involvement in the management of patents and chose to outsource this to third parties”. Thus, research results as well as knowledge was transferred freely from institutions of higher learning through faculty consulting, publications, conference presentations, as well as through the movement of trained graduates (Flening, 2010). The Bayh-Dole Act provided higher education institutions with mechanisms to protect and control intellectual property that resulted from research funded by federal sources (Atkinson & Pelfrey, 2010). Technology transfer between institutions of higher learning and industry has occurred at various levels throughout the years, but until the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, the process was very restrictive in regard to the funding of research through federal funds (Bloom, 2011). Upon the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, a substantial increase in number of patents issued and revenue generation resulted in large research universities (Flening, 2010; Drucker & Goldstein, 2007). However, a majority of TCUs have not had the opportunity to implement formal technology transfer policies and procedures, instead concentrating on basic economic development activities (Fogarty, 2007).
2.4 University-industry research collaborations
According Flening (2010) university-industry research collaboration as well as technology transfer has had a long history in the US. The primary mission of US universities from their early days has always been to produce graduates with skills needed to spur local economies (Bramwell, Hepburn & Wolfe, 2012). According to Bramwell et al. (2012) early university-industry research collaboration was mostly motivated by the local orientation of an institution’s educational mission. Reichman (2005) notes that from the beginning, “US universities undertook teaching and research in very practical fields” since they were not training graduates just for governmental service. Reichman (2005) also notes that there is a “unified national market for faculty at… research universities” in the US (Reichman, 2005). As such, there is a very competitive situation where a professor’s status is achieved based on the number of researches one has accomplished in his or her field; a strong inter-institutional mobility as well as strong competition among universities for resources, prestige plus students. It is these structural characteristics that led to strong university-industry ties early on (Reichman, 2005). These ties had emphasized on commercial application irrespective of formal intellectual property protection (Reichman, 2005). Besides, there was also rapid dissemination of research results as university graduates moved into the industry (Reichman, 2005).
Although the various forms of university-industry interaction that we see today began before World War II, it was in the post-war period that explosive growth in US research and development as well as expansion of the role of university in research was witnessed (Flening, 2010). Reichman (2005) notes that the federal support for university research grew from around $150 million a year in 1935-1936 to about $2.1 billion in 1960. According to Reichman (2005) the collaboration between universities and new industries intensified as Silicon Valleys together with analogous research parks were built around universities were established in Massachusetts, California, and North Carolina among other areas, although only a few industries relied on university researches as their main source of inventions. Such industries included engineering and scientific instruments industry, biotech and pharmaceuticals industry, semiconductors and other new areas in engineering. However, as noted by Reichman (2005) it was until the 1970s that the “universities began to take keen interest in patenting and management of their own patent portfolios”.
During the 1980s, the federal government implemented several measures to facilitate the commercial use of scientific knowledge/inventions that were in the hands of universities. As noted earlier, the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 is one of the legislations that were enacted for this purpose (Flening, 2010). The Bayh-Dole Act authorized institutions of higher learning to “retain intellectual property ownership over any new knowledge that resulted from publicly-funded research activities and, where possible, to commercialize that knowledge through licensing to industry or to start-up companies” (Nezu 2007, p. 9). Immediately after the enactment of the Act, colleges and universities established wholly new technology transfer offices as well as teams with legal, business together with scientific backgrounds that would allow them to effectively engage in research activities in collaboration with the industry and other funding agencies (Flening, 2010). The University of California (2009) states that the Act provided a strong incentive for university-industry research co-operations.
Reichman (2005) notes that the Act increased patenting at a number of major universities and with time, “many more became active in the patenting of federally funded research results”. to the International Development Research Centre (2011) note that today institutions of higher learning collaborate with the industry through technology transfer. Today, industry support for research and development at institutions of higher learning represents less than 7% of the aggregate funding of institutions of higher learning-based research (University of California 2009). The University of California (2009) adds that even though the industry funding is very small as compared to the federal agencies’ 60%, this investment in the creativity of institutions of higher learning, including students, their teachers and staff, drives a form of technology transfer that has become increasingly important to industry. The principles and provisions of the Act have made investments by the industry rest on secure footing. As such, several indicators of university-industry interactions have shown continuing rapid growth as “technology transfer offices become more proficient” (Reichman, 2005).
2.5 Tribal colleges and universities and technology transfer
One of the benefits that were reported by the president of Institute for Higher Education Policy to the Committee on Indian Affairs, US Senate that sought to find justification for funding to TCUs, is technology transfer (Committee on Indian Affairs, 2007). According to the International Development Research Centre (2011) American universities, particularly TCUs, were highly focused on agriculture, the mechanical arts, as well as regional economic industries, mainly on functional pursuits and not just basic research. However, as noted by Campbell and Powell (2009) research and innovation have been increasing in TCUs in the US but intellectual property that could have commercial applications or other economic benefits has been underutilized. The Committee on Indian Affairs (2007) emphasized the need for further collaboration between TCUs and major research universities to promote science and technology at TCUs. Levine (2009, p. 6) states that TCUs where academic research is commercialized and technology transfer occurs through patents, licensing, as well as university-based business startups will be a sine qua non for economically struggling regions and cities. As such, forging partnerships with local businesses as well as commercializing university-generated inventions/knowledge has become of the core missions of modern institutions of higher learning (Levine, 2009).
Levine (2009) notes that university-industry research collaboration is ‘triple helix model’ which involves partnership between university, government and industry in promoting in a global knowledge economy through technology. According to Hill and Lendel (2007, p. 224) “science-based and technology-based economic development policies are attempts to build absolute regional economic advantage, or competitive advantage, in industries that emerge from the laboratories of universities or academic hospitals”. Research at tribal colleges and universities have become cornerstone institution for local firms by generating commercially relevant research which they then transfer to the private sector targeted by the nation’s development policy (AIHEC, 2009). Matthews (2011) notes that university research-industry partnerships allow the two to share intellectual capital as well as access to emerging technologies. The benefits of these partnerships to the industry include “more research-intensive activities and increased involvement in high-risk research activities” (Mathews 2011, p. 4).
TCUs partner with various organizations and companies to enhance and promote their research activities and technology transfer. Among them is the National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency formed to promote technology transfer (University of California, 2009), which aims to promote engineering programs and activities in these institutions. The NSF provides funds to the TCUs to help them establish their own collaborative centers or centers of excellence based on their individual strengths with the aim of engineering expertise as well as best practices regarding engineering programs and innovations (Phelps, 2006). The NSF programs which promote university-industry relations as well as technology/knowledge transfers includes the Science and Technology Centers (STCs), the Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRs), and the Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) (Mathews, 2011). These institutions provide funding for research in areas of industrial interest.
The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) plays a very important role in promoting technology transfer in TCUs as it provides the leadership and influence necessary for promoting and strengthening research activities and technology transfer (AIHEC, 2009). According to AIHEC (2012) it “serves its network of member institutions through public policy, advocacy, research, and program initiatives to ensure strong tribal sovereignty through excellence in American Indian higher education”. AIHEC has signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) with an aim of working together to fulfill the mandate of each institution (AIHEC, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) & DOI, 2011). Among of the objectives of this partnership is to strengthen and sustain the TCUs capacity to participate in DOI research and technology transfer in areas such as natural resources, clean and renewable energy, as well as other sciences/fields critical to the DOI by fully integrating TCUs into the DOI’s bureau programs, resource opportunities and services (AIHEC, BIE & DOI, 2011). The assistance that the DOI will provide to TCUs include research and facility support, loaned executives as well as teaching and research faculty, technology infrastructure and support, and technology transfer to these institutions (AIHEC, BIE & DOI, 2011).
The AIHEC also partners with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Tribal Colleges and University Program (TCUP) which supports various activities designed to build the capacity of TCUs to provide high-quality Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) programs and conduct NASA-relevant research (AIHEC, 2009). In addition, the AIHEC partners with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and the American Indian Research and Education Initiative (AIREI) to support and provide community-based energy research and technology transfer projects (AIHEC, 2011).
Even though most research projects and technology transfer activities at TCUs and institutions of higher learning general are being funded by federal and state agencies, it is evident that intellectual property from TCU research projects have been transferred to the commercial sector (Matthews, 2011). Maynard (2012) notes that TCUs have been involved in numerous research projects such as NASA’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Project. However, one major concern is the relatively low patenting academic institutions. Mathews (2011) notes that although there has been an increase in patenting as well as licensing by academic institutions as a result of research, this is mainly concentrated among a selected number of universities and colleges. An analysis of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities copyright information supports Matthews (2011) observation. Only one TCU in Minnesota State, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, has intellectual property coordinator and office (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, 2012).
2.6 Technology transfer activities at TCUs
TCUs are implementing formal technology transfer policies and procedures, and for that reason, some of them have set up intellectual property offices with intellectual property coordinators at their institutions to deal with patenting related issues (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, 2012). Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (2012) notes that the presidents of these institutions appoint intellectual property coordinators to provide faculty and staff on various intellectual property issues which include; “whether a work is protected by copyright; whether and to what extent a work may be reproduced; how to go about obtaining permission to use a work; negotiating royalties, licenses and fees; and the application of copyright law to distance education settings”. In addition, the intellectual property coordinators also “maintain copies of permission authorizations received from copyright owners and also advise presidents of these institutions if a notice of copyright infringement is received” (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, 2012).
A sample data sharing and ownership agreement by the Center for Indigenous Health Research for the Northwest Indian College is an indication that the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 is helping TCUs retain ownership of their research outcomes especially in technology transfers (Center for Indigenous Health Research, 2012). The Center for Indigenous Health Research (2012) provides a data sharing agreement sample which TCUs use to guarantee the ownership of research outcomes and dissemination (intellectual property rights). The document guarantees TCUs intellectual property rights regarding the publication or commercialization of research findings (Center for Indigenous Health Research, 2012). These agreements are aimed at protecting TCUs from unauthorized research data or findings sharing and giving TCUs ownership and control over data and research findings (Center for Indigenous Health Research, 2012). It also requires research to abide by the TCU’s processes of engagement in the research among others (Center for Indigenous Health Research, 2012).
2.7 Research and technology transfer activities in TCUs: a case study of Diné College
AIHEC (2009) notes that TCU faculty are involved in research in various fields including advanced manufacturing processes, community health, archaeology, hydrology, environmental science, entymology, aerospace engineering, and molecular cell biology. Perhaps some of the technology transfer activities at TCUs can be demonstrated by research activities at Diné College. All intellectual property activities at Diné College are handled by the Diné Policy Institute which also handles all the policy issues for this institution (University of New Mexico, 2007). According to the Diné College (2012) the Diné Policy Institute integrates Western (modern) research practices with traditional Navajo values and natural laws. Its Land Grant Office develops and implements research aimed at promoting agriculture and food science (Diné College, 2012). Its current research activities include Tsaile Watershed Research Project, Nutrition for Young Children, and Navajo Textile Project among other research projects (Diné College, 2012). It is also undertaking Uranium Education Program aimed at examining “health issues arising from the environmental impacts of uranium mining on the Navajo nation” and P20 Project which began in 2006 and is being done in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center (Diné College, 2012). To enhance research activities aimed at promoting technology transfer, Diné College uses the Navajo Dryland Environments Laboratory at Shiprock Campus to carry out its research projects in the environment sciences, geology, chemistry as well as environmental technology (Diné College, 2012). It also collaborates with WERC, which “is a consortium for environmental education and technology development”, Navajo Nation division as well as other researchers and institutions such as ATSDR and NIH-RISE to engage in environmental research (Diné College, 2012).
2.8 Potential local economic benefits that could result from technology transfer activities at TCUs
National Caucus of Native American State Legislators (2010) notes that TCUs contribute significantly to the economic development of reservations especially in areas important to the reservation communities such as health services, business and rural farm development. Fogarty (2007), Hsu (2009) and Matthews (2011) also acknowledge that technology transfer activities at institutions of higher learning have potential benefits to the economy especially industries, a fact supported by the Endogenous Growth Theory (Levine, 2009). According to the Endogenous Growth Theory, the stock of knowledge as well as technological innovations are the major determinants of economic growth rate of a region or nation (Levine, 2009). Hsu conducted a study where he examined “the effect of aggregate technological innovations on expected market returns and premiums”, and concluded that technological innovations determine the aggregate wealth of an economy (Hsu 2009, p. 1). Hsu (2009, p. 2) notes that patent data are more informative as compared to a firm’s research and development data in many aspects: one, they are realized innovations which are ready to be used for business interests; two, the territorial principle, especially that of the US, governing patented data / research results make them more precise proxy of a nation/region’s technological progress; and three, patented inventions/research results “are intangible assets most actively traded in intellectual property markets”. Thus, patented data or research results increases the technological innovation of a firm thus raising its productivity and profitability and in turn, that of the economy (Hsu, 2009).
One area in which technology transfer activities at TCUs have impacted the local community (TCU-communities) is agriculture. According to Chandler (2010) most TCUs are located on remote reservations where agriculture among other economic activities is major. The Navajo nation for example practices agriculture (Diné College, 2012). According to Brenner and Buckhalt (2006) the Office of Technology Transfer in the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Agricultural Research Service, which partners with TCUs in agricultural research projects and technology transfer activities (AIHEC, 2009), facilitates transfer of research outcomes for the benefit of the public as well as the agricultural industries in the local community and the US a whole. Brenner and Buckhalt (2006) note that many of these research outcomes are patented and normally developed through partnerships involving learning institutions, government agencies and private-sector industries. The ARS incorporates technology transfer in its research mission to protect intellectual property when it is necessary to facilitate technology transfer; however, it permits public releases of plant varieties and does not patent animals (Brenner & Buckhalt, 2006). This is done for public good in support of the local communities agricultural businesses (Brenner & Buckhalt, 2006).
According to the sample agreement document by Center for Indigenous Health Research, community engaged in the research project also has to benefit from the research findings (inventions) especially if it is a community-based participatory research done in collaboration with a TCU (Center for Indigenous Health Research, 2012). Therefore, before the research findings are published or commercialized, the applicant must indicate how the TCU community that was involved in the research project stands to benefit and how it will have “access to the project, research data or findings for the TCU’s own use” (Center for Indigenous Health Research, 2012). The participating community stands to benefit from compensation or fair returns which include fair monetary compensation and royalties among other forms of compensations (Center for Indigenous Health Research, 2012).
One such agricultural research project that was undertaken by a TCU that is set to benefit the local economy is the hydroponic greenhouse project that was conducted by the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) and Sandia National Laboratory in collaboration with researchers in Chihuahua, Mexico (Tribal College Journal, 2005). SIPI’s Land Grant University Demonstration Farm examined the feasibility of using hydroponic greenhouses in arid lands of the Western United States (Tribal College Journal, 2005). This research had set to quantify the performance of several forage crops and monitor “water usage of the hydroponic forage production systems” so as to estimate the water savings in comparison to the traditional field-grown production (Tribal College Journal, 2005). Tribal College Journal (2005) also notes that Fond du Lac and Community College, and Blackfeet Community College have also undertaken several researches on sustainable agricultural practices including; natural organic cropping techniques, fisheries management and aquaculture, water and soil conservation techniques, and use of native edible plants among others aimed at improving agricultural practices of the local communities. Thus, technology transfer of agricultural research outcomes according to Philips (2011) is expected to help the tribal communities achieve food sovereignty.
TCUs are also engaged in research projects and technology transfer activities in other sectors which have potential economic benefits to the local community and local industries. Such include renewable energy research projects which be utilized by energy production start-up firms. For example, the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) and the College of Menominee Nation from Keshena among other TCUs have developed efficient wind turbine systems which can be used to develop renewable energy for the Indian country (Tribal College Journal, 2010). The projects which are normally sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the Indian Affairs Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development, and the Bureau of Indian Education have enabled researchers from these institutions to design and construct prototypes of wind turbines capable of generating and mechanically or electronically storing energy and using the energy to power a simple machine (Tribal College Journal, 2010). Such technologies can be advanced by start-up energy producing firms to provide efficient alternative energy to the local communities.
Brenner and Buckhalt (2006, p. 165) note that research findings from university research projects are being used to produce products “from utility patents, plant patents, and Plant Variety Protection Certificates”. According to Brenner and Buckhalt (2006), and Fogarty (2007) there is demonstrable evidence that the public and industry owners among other stakeholders have benefitted from technology transfer arising from research conducted by institutions of higher learning. In the agricultural sector for example, income bearing licenses have been on the rise for the last 20 years and products with sales resulting from these inventions have also been increasing. Brenner and Buckhalt (2006) not these licenses are becoming increasingly successful at commercializing products using exclusive rights to these inventions. Institutions of higher learning’s patented and transferred technology are used by firms or start-up companies to built manufacturing plants and create new jobs to the local community (Drucker & Goldstein, 2007). These products expand product lines of already existing companies, thus increasing trade for those they sell to and revenues to the companies producing the products.
Implementing technology transfer processes is also expected to provide a TCU with benefits beyond the potential financial return; including increased enrollment, added collaborations, expanded degree offerings, and an enhanced reputation (Lowe & Quick, 2005).
2.9 Challenges facing technology transfer at TCUs
One major challenge that faces technology transfer is the different but related laws governing the management of intellectual property and patenting, especially in co-owned inventions (Brenner & Buckhalt, 2006). Brenner and Buckhalt (2006, p. 161) explain that extramural research normally funded by federal appropriations are governed by the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which gives institutions performing the research to retain title to their inventions as well as to license rights to practice the inventions; on the other hand, inventions resulting from “intramural research conducted by federal agencies” are governed by the Stevenson-Wydler Act of 1980 and the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 among other legislations. As such, the laws governing intramural and extramural research create both synergy and conflict between federal agencies and public-sector institutions of higher learning. While institutions of higher learning make their decisions on intellectual property management based on whether the research findings are able to generate revenues to support other research programs, federal agencies’ aim is to make technologies arising from these inventions available to the public as well as the US industries at minimal costs (Brenner & Buckhalt, 2006). As such, federal agencies prefer public release of technologies or publication of research findings, and this creates problems between some federal agencies and institutions of higher learning due to the differing goals of intellectual property protection (Brenner & Buckhalt, 2006).
Another challenge that is affecting institutions of higher learning, including TCUs, as regards patenting is leadership. Nezu (2007) notes that even though patenting of research results provides necessary incentives to institutions of higher learning, researchers as well as businesses to commercialize research results which have been developed by institutions of higher learning, especially in some fields of technology; some institutions of higher learning do not have well-managed technology transfer office that can help researchers in patenting and publishing agreements. An examination of Minnesota State provides a perfect example of how TCUs’ leadership is lagging behind in promoting patenting and technology transfer of research results developed in these institutions. Among the TCUs in Minnesota State which include Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, Leech Lake Tribal College, and White Earth Tribal and Community College (US Department of Education, 2011), only Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College has intellectual property coordinators appointed by the presidents of their respective institutions to offer advice on intellectual property issues to faculty and staff (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, 2012).
Again, in North Dakota State not even a single TCU is part of the North Dakota University System (NDUS) whose mandate among others, is to encourage and promote research, patenting and technology transfer among colleges and universities in the state (North Dakota University System, 2012). The only community colleges which are part of the NDUS are Bismarck State College, Dakota College at Bottineau, Lake Region State College, North Dakota State College of Science, and Williston State College (North Dakota University System, 2012); none of which is a TCU. These examples are clear indication that the leadership of the TCUs are not doing much to promote patenting and technology transfer at their institutions. For this reason, it is possible that researchers at many TCUs suffer due to lack of their expertise in negotiating agreements with institutions or companies sponsoring their researches as noted by Nezu (2007). Vyakarnam (2012) notes that the lack of resources and know-how at technology transfer offices in institutions of higher learning pose serious challenge in protecting and commercializing their intellectual property rights. According to Nezu (2007, p. 21) researchers at institutions of higher learning often face problems due to “their lack of expertise in filling patent applications and negotiating agreements with industry”. Vyakarnam (2012) believes that these institutions lack the institutional strategy to align their operational model since they do not have adequate resources and trained people to deliver on their objectives. Vyakarnam (2012) explains that technology transfer offices are often chaired and governed by administrators or senior academics who may have never commercialized any inventions and therefore their focus is on governance and not on outcomes. Besides, people with no prior commercial expertise are placed in these offices making it hard to steer technology transfer activities for these institutions since they do not properly understand how to negotiate with industry or how to assist with the creation of spin-offs. According to Vyakarnam (2012) boards normally set up to review disclosures as well as intellectual property filing are usually attended by senior academics and trusted people from industry and not people with field expertise in commercialization. Vyakarnam (2012) notes that the positioning of technology transfer offices is typically not a major strategic drive of some institutions and therefore may not have the full backing of such institutions’ leadership, meaning that they remain outside mainstream institutional activities.
Lack of technology transfer offices at TCUs also means that these institutions do not have offices responsible for marketing their invented technologies and to look for companies or institutions to sponsor their research projects (Nezu, 2007). Since some (most) TCUs do not have technology transfer offices, it is difficult for them to professionalize technology transfer activities, meaning that they can not have strong bargaining power over their invented technologies or research results (Nezu, 2007).
2.30 An appropriate technology transfer process for a TCU
Ahmed (2009, p. 3) notes that “the process used to transfer a technology influences the success of the transfer”, and that is why it is important to define an appropriate model of transfer for TCUs. Thus, Schacht (2010) proposes that the best way to conduct these researches is through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs). In jointly or publicly funded research projects, TCUs depend on the funding institution or company for laboratory, equipment, administration and technical personnel, financial and technical support (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2009). Khakbaz (2012) notes technology transfer in this case occurs during the technology incubation stage, especially when the start-up enterprise or firm is in transition from the laboratory to a commercial enterprise (Manimala & Vijay, 2012). According to Manimala and Vijay (2012) the stage allows external users, which include new star-up companies, to advance the technology towards commercialization by the institution’s owned facilities as well as personnel in exchange for monetary compensation or an equity sharing arrangement. Thus, transfer of intellectual property occurs through license agreement or through contracting or an equity arrangement with the start-up company (Khakbaz, 2012). It is for these reasons that TCUs should adopt the CETUS model of the ‘three C approach’, proposed by the Consortium for Educational Technology for University Systems (Bruwelheide, 2008), as their technology transfer process.
The first part of the three C approach deals with the initiator or creator who generated the idea or invention who in this are the researchers, faculty or the university that conducted the research (Bruwelheide, 2008). This means that before commencing research the partners involved in the research have to agree whether the party conducting the research, which could be an individual researcher, researchers, faculty or the TCU, will grant the party supporting it an exclusive or a non-exclusive license to use the research results. If the researcher is an individual, a group or faculty, then the TCU has to implement strategies to share the proceeds from the research with the inventors. Nezu (2007) notes that while ownership of the research results or technology arising from the institution-industry partnership agreement may remain in the hands of the institution, the institution’s intellectual property policies have to state how the revenues/royalties are to be shared among all stakeholders. The second part deals with the control of the content. As noted by Bruwelheide (2008) the institution should negotiate with its partner(s) on who will have control over creation, production, specifications, as well as authority for acceptance. The third and final part of the technology transfer process as proposed by the CETUS model is compensation and other forms of support for the institution (Bruwelheide, 2008).
2.31 Chapter conclusion
Although the Bayh-Dole Act has granted TCUs the authority to protect and control intellectual property that resulting from their research projects whether funded by federal sources or the industry, it is clear from the literature review has not taken advantage of this legislation. Compared to mainstream universities in the US, TCUs are still lagging behind in patenting and technology transfer despite the potential advantages that technology transfer is likely to bring to the TCUs community. The literature review reveals that this is mostly attributed to inadequate technology transfer activities by the leadership in these institutions. The leadership at these institutions is not doing enough to promote and strengthen technology transfer activities in the respective TCUs.
CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND DESIGN
This chapter presents the methods of data collection as well as analysis that will be used in the study to find answers to the research questions in attempts. The methodology focuses on understanding factors/issues affecting technology transfer at TCUs. To achieve this, the study seeks to conduct a Delphi survey research across all the 37 TCUs in North America. The chapter therefore describes the research philosophy adopted for the study explaining the suitable research type and the research approach as well as data collection techniques that will be used in the study. On top of that, it explains data analysis method to be used in the study. The chapter also explains the reasons as to why each method was suitable for the study.
3.2 Research Philosophy
Given the goal of this study, which is to establish the factors which have been affecting technology transfer activities in TCUs across North America, interpretative philosophy is the most appropriate for this study, following Lewis, Saunders and Thornhill (2009)’s definition of interpretative philosophy. According to Lewis et al. (2009) interpretative philosophy involves the use symbolic interactionism together with phenomenology interactionism to understand the world or a situation/issue in the way it actually is in a subjective way, meaning from the research participants’ points of view. Interpretative philosophy actually aims to understand the phenomenon and not to predict, and as such, uses non-mathematical methods to conduct the research. This philosophy will allow the researcher to explore technology transfer activities in these institutions in the way they really are as well as the issues affecting management of technology transfer in these institutions.
3.3 Research Approach
The purpose of this study makes inductive research approach the best option. Lewis et al. (2009) notes that inductive research approach aims to understand as well as generate substantive grounds about the nature of the phenomenon or problem in the way that it occurs, and considering that the study seeks to achieve several objectives regarding technology transfer within the TCU community, this matches the goal of this study. Inductive approach is also appropriate for working on an issue that has not been explored and therefore there is no literature explaining it just like the academic entrepreneurial spirit, and in particular, advancing of technology transfer at TCUs which a small sub-field of institutions of higher learning-industry collaboration. Thus, the approach will be used to gain a good understanding of technology transfer activities in these institutions especially in preparing the questionnaire to be used for data collection. To meet the aims of interpretative research philosophy and inductive research approach, qualitative data collection approach will be used as is suggested by Silverman (2002), and also considering that the purpose of the study is to build an understanding plus to explain the problems surrounding technology transfer based on the available data gathered in the course of the study.
3.4 Research strategy and design
Survey research method will be used to collect enough data that will be analyzed to understand problems facing technology transfer in these institutions. Huff, Munro and Newsted (1998) note that surveys provide the best way to obtain and validate knowledge/data, and can also be used gather quantitative data, which will also be necessary for this study especially in quantifying the research findings. Besides, surveys allow for collection of large volume of data within a short period, and this makes it suitable for gathering data from all the 37 TCUs across North America. It will allow the researcher to collect opinions of experts across all these institutions on the problem under investigation. Therefore, cross-sectional surveys through representative sampling will be used to gather data from researchers, who include teachers and students, administrators and staff in these TCUs, selected to suit the Delphi technique. The administrators and staff to be selected for the study are those working in faculty offices, particularly faculties which have been actively engaged in research activities, and research laboratories in these faculties. For TCUs with technology transfer offices, those working in these offices will also be involved in the survey.
3.5 Time Horizon
Delphi technique focuses on drawing “expert opinions over a short period of time” (Hsu and Sandford 2007, p. 3), and given the goal of this study which is to study technology transfer activities at TCUs and the issues affecting technology transfer within the TCU community, a cross-sectional time horizon was found to be the most appropriate for achieving the research objectives.
3.6 Data Collection: Mixed Method Approach
Both qualitative and quantitative data collection approaches will be employed to gather data. Qualitative approach will be used to gather opinions of the panelists who will be involved in the research while quantitative approach will be used to shape the judgments of the panelists in achieving consensus. A questionnaire will be prepared to be used in data gathering.
3.6.1 Primary data collection: Delphi technique
The Delphi technique offers the best approach to study technology transfer at TCUs. The ability to elicit, distill, and establish the opinions of a select group of experts is the basis of the Delphi technique (Nworie, 2011), and for that reason, the Delphi procedure is the most appropriate for this study. The Delphi technique is an appropriate research design for this study because Delphi studies facilitate the building of consensus, problem-solving with subjective opinions, and interaction with participants over time. According to Nworie (2011) “This research methodology [Delphi technique] is based on the premise that the collective opinions of expert panelists are of richer quality than the limited view of an individual” (p. 25). The study will involve all 37 TCU members of the AIHEC. The selected experts from the 37 TCUs will offer a broad perspective upon the topic of technology transfer.
The Delphi-based study will be conducted to explore the level of research, organizational leadership, and technology transfer activities at participating TCUs. This study will involve three rounds of questionnaires and panelist interaction during later rounds. Each institution will have 6-9 panelists selected carefully from different sectors with transfer technology links. In the first round, a structured questionnaire will be sent to all the panelists via email. After receiving responses from the panelists, the research facilitators/investigators will use the collected information to design a well-structured questionnaire to be used as the survey instrument for the second round. In the second, the Delphi participants will be sent a second questionnaire to review the survey items summarized by the researchers. The panelists will be required to rate the survey items to establish preliminary priorities among items and state the rationale regarding their rating priorities. In the third round, the panelists will be sent a questionnaire that has items and ratings summarized by the researchers to review their judgments and specify the reasons for the issues still remaining outside the consensus.
3.6.2 Secondary Data
Secondary data will also be collected to be used in validating the primary data to be collected from the field. The main sources of the secondary data that will be used in this research include academic literatures, articles/literature from the TCUs sector, and institutional websites.
3.7 Framework for data analysis
Descriptive data analysis will be used to organize the judgments as well as the insights provided by the Delphi panelists to determine consensus. Measures of central tendencies, majorly mode and median, will be used to measure the stability of panelists’ responses in successive iterations.
3.8 Chapter conclusion
The purpose of this chapter is to present the whole research process as well as the research methods and strategies that will be used in finding answers to the research questions. Thus, it will follow an interpretative research philosophy and inductive research approach while the opinions of the experts will be collected through survey research design using the Delphi technique. Finally, the results will be analyzed using measures of central tendencies.
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