Are Entrepreneurial Activities by Faculty Consistent with the Land-Grant Mission?
By Bill Brown, Dean, AgResearch

As we think about the Institute’s land-grant mission, it is reflected in the integrated nature of our work spanning teaching, research, and extension in service of the public good. Our students are taught by, and work in the laboratories of, faculty who are also engaged in cutting-edge research. Extension outreach programs are informed by non-biased, mission-based research results bridging fundamental to applied approaches. Extension outreach programs help to set the research agenda. A significant portion of our AgResearch budget (57 percent) is derived from state and federal sources as capacity funding for faculty to conduct research which provides answers to the needs of our clientele. This approach is very different than the “Arts and Sciences” model with nine-month faculty appointments tied to teaching, with a research expectation fully funded through extramural sources.

Given these specifics, is it appropriate for UTIA faculty and graduate and undergraduate students to be engaged in entrepreneurial activities associated with the technology they have developed which may form the basis of a start-up company or a license agreement with a private company? The Chronicle of Higher Education had a very interesting article recently on how Stanford University facilitates entrepreneurial activity among its faculty and students. With university subscriptions, the article can be accessed on a university computer (search for Chronicle of Higher Education Inside Startup U: How Stanford Develops Entrepreneurial Students).

To answer the question above; yes, we feel it is very much in line with UTIA’s mission for faculty and students to be engaged in entrepreneurial activities where appropriate and in line with the individual’s program. Some of these activities will involve intellectual property and will move to the market through a start-up company or a license agreement. Other activities may be great ideas, with no intellectual property and serve the market through a variety of outlets.

Stanford University embraces private company representatives to mentor and teach students. They have an entrepreneurial leave policy that allows faculty (even pre-tenure) to advance their technology through a start-up company or private industry. During these leaves, faculty are moving between Stanford and the private company to continue advancing their university program and graduate students while engaging the market through the business. Approximately 25 percent of Stanford’s faculty members have founded or incorporated a firm at some point in their careers. Although UTIA may or may not strive to have this high a level of involvement, UTIA faculty should feel the freedom to take risks in their research programs and form collaborations across disciplines to solve grand challenges.

UT Honors Wildlife Researcher Shigetoshi Eda for Tech Transfer

The UT Research Foundation presented its 2016 B. Otto and Kathleen Wheeley Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer to Shigetoshi Eda, associate professor in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, and to Jayne Wu, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The foundation bestows the distinguished honor to one or more UT faculty members who excel in the commercialization of university-based research results. The award recognizes UT faculty who take a direct and active role in the technology commercialization process.

Eda and Wu were recognized for the research and invention leading to an innovative disease detection system called an ACEK-based capacitance sensor that can diagnose diseases in people and animals in just minutes. It can be used anywhere, from hospitals to remote areas in developing countries. Eda was also successful in developing a sensitive diagnostic test for Johne’s disease, a tremendously costly livestock disease, which was commercialized in February 2015.

The selection criteria for this award includes the technological and/or scientific significance of the invention; the market success of the product or process; the degree of active involvement of the nominee in the commercialization process; and the nominee’s overall contribution to the University’s missions of teaching, research, and service.

AgResearch has had three previous honorees since the award’s inception in 1990—back-to-back recipients, in fact. Professors Robert Trigiano and Mark Windham of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology were honored in 2007, and professor Vince Pantalone of the Department of Plant Sciences received the award in 2006.

UT’s Gamma Sigma Delta Chapter Wins Int’l Award, Grant

The international honor society of agriculture, Gamma Sigma Delta (GSD), has presented its Silver Chapter Award to the UT Chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta. International President Edward Rister cited the chapter’s exceptional activity and impact as factors in the selection. Among them is installation of the Native American Interpretive Garden and sponsorship of the annual CASNR Career Fair and Résumé Doctor workshop for the College’s students.

The GSD International Foundation has also awarded the chapter an enrichment grant. Project leaders Emily Gray, William Hart, and Michael Buschermohle sought the grant to increase the profile of GSD through service to students. The award will be used to support CASNR Career Services activities that increase the marketability of CASNR students. The Career Fair and Résumé Doctor workshop are important steps in the employment of CASNR students. Increasing student participation in each is a primary goal of the grant. The award will also assist in development of a workshop on e-portfolios for the College’s students.

Applications for the GSD student scholarships—the International Foundation Scholarship (one undergraduate and one graduate) and the John Riley Service Scholarship (undergraduate)—are available from chapter officers. They are: President Kim Gwinn of Entomology and Plant Pathology Vice President Joanne Logan of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science Treasurer Willie Hart of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science Secretary Jessy Shanks of Animal Science Historian Tammy McKinley of Agricultural and Resource Economics Immediate Past President Justin Crowe of 4-H/Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications

Last year, UT student members received all three GSD scholarships. The next GSD meeting will be held on February 26 in 113 Plant Biotechnology Building, and the Spring Luncheon will be held on April 22 in 156/157 Plant Biotechnology Building. Watch for email announcements on each.