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Harvard Seeks To Raise Tech Revenue

By Nicholas M. Ciarelli, Contributing Writer

Harvard will create a new senior administrative position to coordinate licensing of its discoveries and technologies to outside companies, the University confirmed Wednesday.

Isaac T. Kohlberg’s appointment as associate provost and chief technology development officer comes as Harvard attempts to beef up “technology transfer,” a practice by which universities license technologies stemming from their research to companies who develop them. Kohlberg currently heads up technology transfer efforts for Tel Aviv University.

Kohlberg, who starts work May 1, will oversee the University’s technology licensing and will report directly to Provost Steven E. Hyman.

Though Harvard pulled in $24.3 million in licensing revenues through its Office of Technology and Trademark Licensing (OTTL) in fiscal year 2003, some rival research universities have been able to make far more money off technology transfer. The MIT Technology Licensing Office announced gross revenues of $31.7 million that year, and Columbia University’s Science and Technology Ventures unit saw total licensing revenue of $178.4 million for fiscal 2003. According to Columbia, that number represents the highest technology licensing revenue of any U.S. research university for the fifth year running.

The creation of the high-level post followed a review of policy on licensing and patents in light of plans for expanding the University science programs and increasing interdisciplinary nature of scientific research.

Former OTTL Director Joyce Brinton announced her retirement last winter, and the OTTL, which previously reported to Vice President for Finance Ann Berman, was put under the jurisdiction of Hyman this summer.

Kohlberg is now CEO of Ramot, the technology transfer company of Tel Aviv University, as well as its parent company, TAU Economic Corp. Ltd. From 1989 to 2001, he filled a number of roles at New York University, including vice provost.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz said Kohlberg’s position will be “the highest post ever held by an Israeli manager” in academia.

Kohlberg could not be reached for comment, but he said in a Harvard press release that technology transfer is an “excellent and time-tested means” of advancing science research to “reach fruition.”

“The 21st century will bring many new opportunities and challenges for the University community in technology transfer and collaborations with industry,” he said. “The changes under way at Harvard show its commitment to the future, and to leadership in technology development and transfer, as well as to economic development in the Commonwealth.”

Hyman said Harvard’s central goal is to make the fruits of its research more accessible outside the University, and said Harvard pumps its licensing income back into research and education—including financial aid for students.

“President Summers and I believe that the University has an obligation not just to conduct research at the highest level but to ensure that that research, where it can, be used to improve the lives and health of the larger community,” Hyman wrote in an e-mail. “In hiring Isaac Kohlberg, we’re seeking to expand our efforts in the area.”

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