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In the university world, it’s publish or perish, as most everyone knows. But how many of those scholars who publish realize that the royalties that their books may earn actually belong to the university where they teach?
The stunned silence that
this question evoked from one professor was typical.
He need not worry, however—even aside from the fact that scholarly
books rarely enrich their authors. “Books
are traditionally exempted,” said Shlomo Harel, managing director of
Carmel-Haifa University Economic Corp. Ltd.
“Whenever a faculty member gives advice to a company or tells it about a new methodology or algorithm, this information—intellectual property—rightfully belongs to the University as the researcher’s employer,” Harel explains. It is just like the work of an employee of any company, he adds. Whatever is produced belongs to the employer.
Harel, a member of the Association of University Technology Managers, sees his task as both preserving intellectual property rights for the University and increasing the value of products created by its researchers. An offshoot of this dual task is to implant the notion of the commercialization of ideas in faculty members, who are generally more interested in publishing a paper than preparing a product. He gave Focus two examples.
Two Israeli entrepreneurs
approached Prof. Solomon Wasser, a member of the University’s
In this particular case, which occurred before the Carmel Corp. was set up, Shlomo Harel, who acted at that time as a consultant to University President Hayuth, thought that the entrepreneurs should give the University both royalties on sales of products developed from the process and shares in the company set up to produce and market them. Wasser had developed the process as part of his research at the University on the use of fungi for pharmaceuticals. An agreement was worked out that led in effect to the creation of a University start-up. If the products succeed, Harel remarks, then the University will gain a good profit.
A researcher stands to
benefit in the second example that Harel cited.
That would have been the
end of the story, were it not for Harel. He
pointed out that the Hebrew version was not a mere translation.
The University was given distribution rights for it.
Harel also raised a question of who owns what.
It seems that the psychologist had been writing summaries based on the
test results and sending royalties from their sales to the
is the establishment of the University’s
University and its researchers are very creative,” he offers when asked about
its profit-making potential, “so I am very optimistic.”
He lists a math project that will, he hopes, soon lead to a start-up. He
mentions the Faculty of Social Welfare’s existing and planned clinics in
speech and language and in occupational and physical therapy that do and will
serve the community at large. He
points to the Actuarial Department, the only one in Israel, which wants to
establish a center to handle the surveys that it has already been asked to
conduct, such as by the National Insurance Institute,
Israel’s equivalent of the Social Security Administration.
He names the University’s Brain and
All these possibilities, Harel admits, will take time, but he is sure they will lead to all sort of “products.” It will then be up to the University to decide where to take them, he says. Besides their commercial value, providing the University with an additional source of needed revenue, he looks upon these ventures, which are the product of research, as “returning something back to the community.” The University stands to gain in other ways, too. As he sees it, “If it [one of these research-based commercial ventures] grows, the University’s reputation will also grow.”
meantime, Harel tries to expand commercial thinking among academic researchers.
He wants them to think of Carmel-Haifa University Economic Corp. as an
“applied filter” for their ideas. “Perhaps
an idea, like tourist enclaves [from the Center for Tourism Research] or an
environmental study [from the Environmental and
Undoubtedly he tells them that the University will not ask for a 50/50 split on royalties from their books.
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