CEDAR CITY — Research and development is like fiscal bread and butter for Utah State University and the University of Utah.

Yet it's a subject that usually receives "passing attention" on higher education meeting agendas, according to USU President Kermit Hall. His advice to the State Board of Regents on Thursday was to devote the same "intensity and vigor" to graduate studies as is paid to undergraduate programs.

That means, for example, making sure research professors are paid enough to keep them in Utah. Losing just one of the 27 people responsible for 80 percent of the $141 million devoted last year to research at USU would mean a big financial loss for the school, Hall said.

Another goal is to increase efforts toward commercializing the intellectual property that comes out of research at the U. and USU.

One step in that direction will be for voters to consider in this fall's election an amendment to the constitution that would essentially allow schools to have an equity interest in whatever research and development turns into a licensed technology, commercial product or new business. The Senate and House both supported a resolution that places the amendment on the ballot.

But it doesn't end there.

The idea of collaboration between USU and the U. on applying for federal research grant money is gaining more steam after Gov. Olene Walker last fall issued a mandate to do just that.

"We've been living in isolation," said Dinesh Patel, a Utah venture capitalist and USU Board of Trustees member. In the past, both schools have been trying to grab their own pieces of the financial pie, he said.

Now, the push is for regents to take specific actions on the subject of transferring technology created at schools like the U. and USU into the marketplace. Among those is for regents to gain a better understanding of how graduate education is funded in Utah, to find funds to build more research laboratories and for regents to look for ways the U. and USU can work with the state's other public institutions on research and development.


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com