Governor McAuliffe signs bill supporting student innovation

educationGovernor Terry McAuliffe has signed into law legislation that directs the Boards of Visitors of public colleges and universities to adopt intellectual property (IP) policies that are supportive of students.

Speaking at the bill signing, Governor McAuliffe said, “This legislation encourages a campus culture that supports entrepreneurship and motivates Virginia’s universities to be hubs of creativity and innovation with the potential to drive regional economic growth.”

House Bill 1230 clarifies existing university IP policies to specify the conditions under which institutions of higher education own intellectual property as opposed to student ownership.  Current policies at some institutions of higher education create uncertainty about IP ownership, which discourages students from launching new ventures, starting businesses, or commercializing research based on their own ideas.  This legislation fosters campus cultures that support entrepreneurship and allows Virginia’s colleges and universities to serve as hubs of creativity and innovation that drive regional economic growth.

This legislation was drafted based on recommendations from the Governor’s Council on Youth Entrepreneurship.  The Council, which is chaired by Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones, includes student entrepreneurs and leaders from education, business and startup communities. Working with higher education and other public and private sector resources, the Council is currently conducting a comprehensive assessment of current local, state and federal programs and services available to young entrepreneurs and will provide recommendations to the Governor in November 2016.

“Virginia’s colleges and universities are educating some of the most talented young entrepreneurs in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones.  “It is imperative that we create an environment that fosters innovation, enabling them to realize their entrepreneurial aspirations.”

Promoting IP commercialization and new patents by Virginia students is critical to growing the new Virginia economy.  Statistics from the Council on Virginia’s Future show that although Virginia’s rate of patent formation has improved in recent years to 25.0 patents per 100,000 residents in 2014, it is still well below the U.S. average of 45.3. Although the rate of university startup formation has improved, with Virginia universities generating 1.94 startups per one million residents in 2013, that number remains below the national rate of 2.38 startups, ranking the Commonwealth 27th in the country.  Increased student innovation and university-based research commercialization are central to Governor McAuliffe’s efforts to diversify and grow Virginia’s economy.

“HB 1230 will work to ensure that all Virginia public universities have clear and easy to understand policies on student intellectual property rights,” said Delegate Charniele Herring.  “Virginia attracts some of the most innovative and creative students in the nation– students who should have ownership of their own ideas.  Vague policies often lead to the impression that an idea or project created in a dormitory, or using university wifi, could be subject to university ownership.  Universities are natural hubs of creativity, and we should do everything we can to promote student innovation and responsible risk-taking.”

The law has been endorsed by the multiple public colleges and universities, including Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, George Mason University, the College of William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Old Dominion University, as well as the Northern Virginia Technology Council and Virginia21.

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