A new program
at the University of Minnesota could boost the number of startup companies and innovative products in the state, with faculty putting a whole new spin on "office hours."
The Entrepreneurial Leave Program will facilitate temporary leave for faculty inventors who want to assist an external organization in commercializing a product or service that might use university-derived intellectual property.
The university decided on the step because as a land-grant institution, the school wants to stay connected to the local business community, notes Russ Straate, in the Office for Technology Commercialization at the University of Minnesota. That connection is strengthened when technology makes it out of the university and into the marketplace, a transition in which faculty usually plays a key role.
"We put this together to help faculty translate their work into the commercial sector," says Straate. "It gives them permission and time to explore."
Most importantly, the program also gives them benefits. In the past, faculty were granted leaves of absence to pursue projects, but had to give up their health insurance and other plum university benefits. That left many putting their projects on a back burner instead of pursuing commercialization.
"It's important for faculty to continue to grow and learn, that's what sabbaticals are about," Straate says. "When doing a leave of absence, though, you shouldn't be negatively impacting your family and yourself."
The program will be officially in place in July, but Straate notes that there's already buzz among faculty members who've wanted to take their research and development to the next level.
Source: Russ Straate, University of Minnesota
Writer: Elizabeth Millard