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Property measure is backed

The Utah Board of Business and Economic Development is backing Amendment 2, which would allow the state or its higher education institutions to capitalize on their intellectual property development.

The board on Thursday adopted a resolution supporting passage of the amendment.

The amendment would clarify the constitutionally fuzzy matter by allowing the state or public higher-ed institutions to acquire an ownership interest in a private business in exchange for the sale, license or other transfer to the private business of intellectual property developed by the state or institution.

Board member Ed Ekstrom said technology transfers currently occur through licensing.

"Every major East and West Coast venture capital firm does not enter into a deal where there is long-term licensing attached to a project, especially in the medical areas," he said. "So by taking on an equity position, the actual upside for a university is much greater.

"If you look at a lot of the endowments at major West Coast and East Coast private and public education institutions, a very large portion of that endowment comes from equity that's been derived from successful business outcomes. You can't even imagine. It's trillions and billions of dollars. So, let's just say you had 1 percent of Google at the University of Utah, and you could see what the impact is."

Board member Mark Howell agreed. "You look at the Silicon Valley (with) Stanford, you look at Boston, MIT, Harvard. These research universities can be engines to spur economic development," he said.