Innovation in Utah


One of newly elected Governor Jon Huntsman's first moves on economic development was to get the University of Utah to appoint an "innovation czar." Jack Brittain, Dean of the Business School is now taking on this task as well.

Brittain said his job is to create as many jobs as possible in Utah by commercializing innovations that come out of the U. "It is also my job to make sure that current Utah businesses have access to the scientific might that is at the University of Utah, to help them develop competitive advantages and expand employment in Utah."

He said he intends to "dream big for Utah" by encouraging the outstanding science at the university to focus on potential new industries.

Brittain likened the mapping of the human genome in 2003 to Columbus' discovery of the New World in 1492. "Everything will change," he said.

According to Brittain, the U. is a world leader "in many areas necessary to take advantage of this opportunity, and we're determined to chart the course others will follow, and use this science to make Utah a leader in the world just over the horizon."
From deseretnews.com | U. names 'innovations czar'
Referenced Mon Jan 24 2005 14:36:09 GMT-0700

Jack's a good guy and I wish him well. I'm anxious, however to hear some specifics of how exactly this will work. I'm leary of University "technology transfer" efforts because I've not seen them offer the right incentives to get professors interested. One thing I'd like to see quickly is an analysis of how policies at the U affect the ability and willingness of faculty and grad students to commercialize their work. Here are a few examples of how they might do this:

  • If you want to affect this in a positive way, increase the credit professors get for technology transfer.
  • Ensure professors can get time away from the university to work on commercial projects.

I was in this boat (at BYU) and was often discouraged by the need to "choose" between my academic future and the possibility of creating a commercial success. Universities can do more to make this less of a either/or option and more of a slight detour.