Specific Recommendations to Promote Academic Entrepreneurship

 A. Changes in Campus Attitude and Perception of Entrepreneurial Activity

1.    UW-Madison should embrace academic entrepreneurship as a facet of the Wisconsin Idea and valuable to its commitment to society, such as:

a.    The entrepreneurial activity should be viewed in the same light as teaching one’s own theory or doing novel research in that the University is not making claim that the theory is right or the research may never lead to societal harm but it is letting the academic go ahead under oversight to evolve the activity.

b.    Within negotiated commitment guidelines, de minimus use of university resources for entrepreneurial activities where the use does not cause the university extra cost (e.g., local phone, email and other computer usage, meetings on campus spaces) should be considered acceptable.

c.     Research contracts with the spin-off company and the University are encouraged as long as the University interests have been taken into account and the University official signing the contract has no potential conflict of interest.

d.    In evaluating tenure and conducting post-tenure reviews, inventorship, company startup activity based on university innovation, and other forms of societal enrichment by tenure or tenure-track faculty members should be recognized at least as service contributions, or preferably, as valuable contributions to economic and societal development.

e.    College and departmental policy should encourage entrepreneurial efforts, which bring university innovation and creativity into public use, along with service, teaching excellence and research productivity as measured by publications and grants. One method to achieve this is to direct a large fraction of departmental revenues obtained from licenses or sale of equity to the university groups of the inventors and entrepreneurs (e.g., department share could be assigned to the innovator’s lab).

f.      Application for entrepreneurial leaves should be dealt with equivalently with leave for preparing teaching or research material or sabbaticals to work at another university.

g.    Standard language for faculty, staff, student and trainee recruitment should state that the UW-Madison values entrepreneurship and the transfer of university-derived ideas to benefit Wisconsin and beyond.

h.    The Conflict of Interest Committee should be renamed the Conflict Management Committee because there is no conflict if there is a coincidence of interest. As in all human activities conflict will exist but the goal is to minimize it.

i.      The Outside Activities report should be renamed the Entrepreneurial Activities report. After all, the University is paying the faculty or staff member and so, with the academic having a management plan in place and an agreement with the University on an acceptable level of commitment for entrepreneurial activity, the activity is effectively rendered within the purview of acceptable university activities.  This places the entrepreneurial activity on par with teaching and research, with the University accepting that it likely has a probable coincidence of interest and not just a possible conflict of interest.

B. Detailed UW Changes in Procedure or Policy

1.    UW-Madison should develop written guidelines clarifying how departments or centers should formulate the amount of time faculty and staff may spend on entrepreneurship such as; consulting, company formation and operation, professional artistic performance and other activities that may enrich society. These guidelines should recognize that there may be significant differences among colleges and departments, but the application of the guidelines should be transparent and constant throughout the University and include the needs of the sciences, arts and humanities. For example, in the arts, an academic is judged mainly on cultural innovation and their impact on society. Academic artists must be closely engaged with society including the vehicles of for-profit or not-for-profit enterprise such as production studios, public performances and festivals.  The allowed commitment by the University to these activities is a measure of the University’s commitment to engaging society.  

2.    As a matter of patient safety and trial efficacy, the Investigative Review Board, which governs the conduct of clinical trials, needs to encourage, not discourage, that ample technical and clinical expertise from medical entrepreneurs is incorporated into proposals. After all, the entrepreneurial inventor or developer of the medical technologies is typically the most knowledgeable person on the technology. There is a coincidence of interest among the inventor, University and patients that the trial be conducted as safely as possible. The operational aspects of the trial, such as the selection of patients, data analysis and trial reporting must be done by someone knowledgeable who does not have a potential conflict of interest. Most importantly, the clinical trial process has to be responsive and quick to make decisions on potential life saving disease preventions, diagnostics and treatments.

C. State and Federal Changes

1.    Change (indicated by underlining) statutes governing the University of Wisconsin System to:

36.01 Statement of purpose and mission.

(1) The legislature finds it in the public interest to provide a system of higher education which enables students of all ages, backgrounds and levels of income to participate in the search for knowledge and individual development; which stresses undergraduate teaching as its main priority; which offers selected professional graduate and research programs with emphasis on state and national needs; which fosters diversity of educational opportunity; which promotes service to the public including economic development through cooperation with not-for-profit and for-profit enterprises providing employment in Wisconsin; which makes effective and efficient use of human and physical resources; which functions cooperatively with other educational institutions and systems; and which promotes internal coordination and the wisest possible use of resources.

(2) The mission of the system is to develop human resources, to discover and disseminate knowledge, to extend knowledge and its application, including entrepreneurship based on university innovation, beyond the boundaries of its campuses and to serve and stimulate society by developing in students heightened intellectual, cultural and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise and a sense of purpose. Inherent in this broad mission are methods of instruction, research, extended training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition. Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.

36.23 Conflict of interest.

No regent or officer or other person appointed or employed in any position in the system may at any time act as agent for any person or organization where such act would create a conflict of interest with the terms of the person’s service in the system. The board shall define conflicts of interest and promulgate rules related thereto. Entrepreneurial faculty and staff may engage in entrepreneurial activities with a management and commitment plan that balances the missions which include teaching, research, service to the community, and economic development.

2.    Federal private inurement and unrelated business income laws are often held up as the reason that startup companies cannot operate within the university. These laws are ambiguous and should be changed to clarify how universities and not-for-profit research institutions can include economic development through incubation of for-profit and not-for-profit spin-off enterprises.