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CENTERS FOR EXCELLENCE EARN THEIR KEEP, USU OFFICIAL SAYS

Utah's Centers for Excellence have far more than earned their keep through economic development and the attraction of matching funds to the state, said Wayne H. Watkins.

Watkins, director of technology commercialization at Utah State University and of the USU Research and Technology Park, said the $12 million invested by the state in the centers has produced "significant results." The state has contributed approximately $3 million per year to the centers since 1986 with hopes of encouraging technological innovation at colleges and universities and speeding it to market.Watkins was one of several speakers who addressed issues related to technology transfer during a conference Friday in the Utah Law and Justice Center. The meeting was sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Utah State Bar Association, the Utah Manufacturers Association, the Wayne Brown Institute and the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development.

At present, there are 25 Centers of Excellence in four Utah institutions of higher education, Watkins said.

More than $200 million in matching funds has been attracted to the state by the work of the centers, and 1,336 jobs have been created in businesses that have spun off from them. Approximately $4.8 million in taxes have been generated by the businesses.

Watkins listed a number of products that have been developed at the centers and now are being marketed or being prepared for market. They include:

-A fully-implantable artificial heart being developed by the University of Utah that is nearly ready for testing.

-A device that allows the administration of ionized medications through the skin.

-Technology to facilitate space experiments, the work of Weber State College. "Utah has become the small-satellite capital of the nation, possibly of the world," Watkins said.

-Videodisc recordings of master teachers to spread good educational techniques, the work of Utah State University electronic instruction specialists. In one school where the videodiscs were used, students' grades improved by 22 percent.

-Fluid chromotography equipment developed at Brigham Young University, now being produced and sold here.