The 1997-98 Report on Research Contracts and Technology Transfer was recently released by Erica Besso, Director of the Office of Research Services. It gives an encouraging snapshot of Concordia's activity in research partnerships with the non-academic sector.
The Industrial Liaison Unit (ILU) experienced a robust level of activity, with 96 contracts signed in the fiscal year June 1, 1997 to May 31, 1998, an increase of 20 per cent over the previous fiscal year. Total revenue from research contracts and licenses for 1997-98 amounted to $1,515,637.
Activity related to the promotion and commercialization of Concordia intellectual property focused on Professors Ching Suen's automated cursive script recognition technology and Professor Raymond Le Van Mao's zeolite-based catalysts technology. Technology transfer activities were pursued in collaboration with Univenture Inc., the University's arms-length company.
Three license agreements were signed based on softwares or technology developed by Professors Susan Mikkelsen (formerly with Concordia's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry), Wagdi Habashi (Mechanical Engineering) and Robert Paknys (Electrical and Computer Engineering).
Real Numerix Limited (RNL), the first Concordia spin-off company (created in spring 1996), continues to mature. The technology licensed to RNL is that developed by Professor W.G. Habashi in the domain of computational fluid dynamics. Real Numerix was physically located at Concordia in 1997-98.
The position of Manager of the Industrial Liaison Unit has been abolished, and the unit now reports directly to the Director of Research Services. The ILU now consists of a Contracts and Technology Transfer Officer and a Research Contracts Assistant; a new position of Industrial Liaison Officer in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science has not yet been filled.
Income to Concordia from contract research has fluctuated over the years, peaking at close to $2 million in 1989-90. Contract research revenue bottomed out in 1992-93 and has been slowly but steadily increasing since. For the first time, library scholars generated a portion of contract research activity. However, the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science continues to generate the bulk of contract research funding (79 per cent), followed by the Faculty of Arts and Science (18 per cent).
"The willingness of both industrial partners and government partners to engage in contract research on a cost recovery basis (i.e. with the payment of appropriate overheads) continues to be a major challenge," Besso said. "University overhead revenues are adversely affected by this reality, particularly in partnerships with government ministries. This is particularly true of research agreements which appear in the guise of grants, even though they bear much stronger similarities to contracts.
"In addition, the recent evolution towards direct electronic submissions of such proposals by researchers has resulted in a bypassing of the ILU prior to deposit of an application with the funding agency. It is thus impossible for the ILU to address the incorrect or missing budgeting for overhead cost recovery prior to proposal submission in those cases."
Besso worked last year with representatives of the other Montreal universities to define the parameters of operation for a new technology transfer corporation, the Centre de transfert technologique de Montréal (CTTM).
In her role this year as president of ADARUQ (Association des administrateurs et administratices de la recherche universitaire du Québec), she will welcome colleagues from other Quebec universities and other interested sectors to Concordia on October 14 for a day-long conference on Les indicateurs de la recherche universitaire. (For more information on this conference, see the Back Page).