New AVC’s focus is campus/industry cooperation
Veteran of both business and the academy seeks to broker improved relations between them
| 05 June 2003
A new campus Office of University/Industry Liaison has been created, headed by a freshly minted assistant vice chancellor, Alexander (Allen) Krantz. With a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and a dual career as an academic and an entrepreneur to inform him in his new role, Krantz is focusing on the priorities identified two years ago by the university/industry task force that called for the new AVC position to be created: brokering and facilitating industry-sponsored research support and development; working to overcome obstacles to these relationships; and ensuring that they remain consistent with UC’s mission of education, research, and public service.
“Universities are essentially the engines responsible for the world economic gameplan,” Krantz asserts. “They create new knowledge and technology, which is spun out and put in the hands of people who develop it to the point where new businesses, jobs, and structures are set up.” The clearest manifestations of this principle, he says, are information technology and biotechnology, though it applies in numerous academic disciplines and subdisciplines, from electroacoustics to polymer chemistry.
It’s widely accepted today that a research university has as one of its primary roles the benefiting of society through the appropriate transfer of research findings to the public sphere through industrial development, and in fact hundreds of licensing agreements are concluded each year by the various UC campuses. The responsibility of negotiating and administering complex re-search agreements with industry doesn’t phase Krantz, who in addition to serving as a tenured professor of chemistry and pharmacology at SUNY – Stony Brook and Stony Brook Medical School also oversaw one significant startup effort at industrial giant Syntex Corp. and launched another of his own some years later — RedCell, Inc., which developed a sophisticated drug-delivery system.
“Negotiating with industry is a process that can be contentious,” says Krantz. “Both groups are trying to get the best deal they can … or at least survive the process! Having sat on both sides of the table, I want to get involved in that process so that faculty don’t have to worry about it: they can focus on their research, and I can support them by getting financial resources that allow them to do so.”
By bridging the different cultural and operational differences that obtain in both spheres — bottom-line-oriented businesses don’t always understand the decision-making processes that are a part of university life, for example — the AVC for University/Industry Liaison can fulfill a number of functions that were sometimes unaddressed previously, including the provision of one-stop service for faculty and industry on all matters involving university/industry research collaborations, intellectual property issues, outreach to industry, and management of the campus relationship with all technology-transfer matters at UCOP and other campuses.
Krantz says his highest goal is to advance the purposes of the varous stakeholders in the technology-transfer process: the university and faculty primarily, but also the federal government and the state. “UC’s reputation is enhanced by the major products that are developed from its research breakthroughs,” he says. “They lend additional luster to the institution” — something he thinks is of value to even those faculty working in pure, “curiosity-driven” research.
After all, says Krantz, apart from the financial benefits that innovative faculty can realize from the practical application of their research, “all faculty work for recognition not only by their colleagues, but from ‘generic’ sources such as the public. Even beyond that, they’re interested in seeing their research improve people’s lives. While that’s not necessarily the immediate goal of the academic process, it’s unquestionably an ennobling outcome of it.”