AUTM Startups and UW Reporting

In an article about the University of Washington’s Center for Commercialization by the Washington Business Alliance, Vice Provost Rhoads defends her startup figures:

Rhoads responded, “Every single one of our startups can evidence itself to be the real deal and can meet the Association of University Technology Managers [link now broken] (AUTM) standards.” AUTM promotes technology transfer and commercialization between universities and private industry. Barnett still worries because “The data AUTM has is supplied by UW and is not audited by AUTM.”

Here is the AUTM licensing survey guidance [now disappeared from the web] for 2012 on startup reporting (emphasis in original, but I have added blank lines for readability):

START-UP COMPANIES: As used in this Survey, START-UP COMPANIES are new companies that were dependent on licensing your institution’s technology for their formation.

If a technology was licensed to an existing start-up company,that was formed to develop a different technology, this company should be counted as a SMALL COMPANY when responding to Question 6C., not a START-UP COMPANY. START-UP COMPANIES, as used in this Survey, refer only to those companies that were formed specifically to develop the technology being licensed.

A START-UP COMPANY may be formed well in advance of when the actual license is signed, while the founders research and write the company’s business plan and explore the feasibility of securing investors or grants.

A company should be reported as a START-UP COMPANY irrespective of whether the company was formed by the licensing institution OR by an entrepreneur, investor, the professor, a graduate student or a post-doctoral fellow.

The key question is: “Was the company that licensed a technology formed specifically to license and develop the technology being licensed.

Let’s go through this guidance carefully. A start-up company, for AUTM, must be formed “specifically to license and develop the technology being licensed.” The startup is counted when it is formed, not when the license is signed. Thus, companies that were started for other reasons, and then also take a license from a university, are not to be counted as startups, even if started in the same fiscal year as the university license, and certainly not if the company was started earlier.

There is no way that UW’s “startup” counts for FY13 and FY14 can meet AUTM’s definition. Rhoads, however, leaves no room for doubt: “Every single one of our startups can evidence itself to be the real deal and can meet the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) standards.” One is left with the impression that UW senior administrators do not have a regard for the truth. Too much must be on the line.

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