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A plan that proposes a $100-million, five- year pilot federal program to accelerate the commercialization of university-developed technologies was praised by a top White House Office of S&T Policy (OSTP) official last week at a Capitol Hill briefing organized by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

The plan is contained in a 14-page white paper, IMPACT: Innovation Model Program for Accelerating the Commercialization of Technologies, prepared by Univ. of Southern California vice provost for innovation Krisztina Holly (also known as ‘Z’). It outlines an initiative that would use federal funding to coax existing university research results into the US commercial marketplace through ten local demonstration sites or centers. Each center would be funded at a level of $2-million per year for five years to “nurture a culture of entrepreneurship within each university, create and enhance the innovation ecosystem around each university, and provide the resources necessary for researchers to effectively translate their ideas into societal impact.”

The program’s three key components would be gap funding, community-building, and mentoring and education.

Under the plan, a successful demonstration program would lead to Phase II where the program would be institutionalized on a wider scale across the country, accelerating existing efforts to turn university research successfully into economic and societal impacts in the form of innovations to improve the lives of citizens.

Holly believes the IMPACT program would be “best managed” from within Commerce Dept.’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), with the National Science Foundation serving in an advisory capacity, and complement EDA’s FY10 proposal for regional innovation clusters.

“I want to thank Z and her colleagues for their proposal and, although it’s not something that the administration has an official position on yet, it certainly is aligned with a number of the administration’s priorities,” OSTP deputy director for policy Tom Kalil said Oct.7.

David Kappos said Oct.1. “Initial results from this pilot are very impressive and show that interviews present a clear path to resolve issues and move prosecution forward quickly.”

The expanded program will include more technologies for six months from Oct.1.

The initial six month pilot program, which began April 28 2008, was limited to two computer-related technology areas and has shown that the patent process benefits when interaction between the applicant and the examiner are enhanced at the start of examination, because patentability issues can be resolved early when the applicant and the examiner discuss them one-on-one. For the applications involved in the initial pilot, the First-Action Allowance rate increased six- fold when compared to applications from the same technology area not involved in the pilot.

Under the expanded pilot, the examiner will conduct a prior art search and provide the applicant a pre-interview communication, which is a condensed preview of objections or rejections proposed against the claims.

Within 30 days from the issue date of the pre-interview communication, the applicant must choose either not to have a first action interview with the examiner, or to schedule the interview and file a proposed amendment or remarks.

Several improvements have been made to the program since the initial pilot and the PTO will continue to survey applicants during the expanded pilot for further improvements.

For more details on eligibility and criteria for participation in the pilot, visit ce/faipp_v2.htm

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