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Senior Vice Provost Buhrman takes on additional role in technology transfer

Media Contact

Claudia Wheatley

Robert Buhrman, senior vice provost for research, has been named to the additional, newly created post of vice president for technology transfer, intellectual property and research policy, reporting directly to President David Skorton.

"Technology transfer continues to grow in importance for all of Cornell's campuses, as does the need for Cornell to be active in the promotion of regional economic development," Skorton said in announcing Buhrman's appointment. "Establishment of the new position of Vice President for Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property and Research Policy with responsibility for handling these issues on behalf of the whole university will make certain there is clarity and purpose to our endeavors in this critical arena."

Buhrman, who will continue in his role as senior vice provost for research for the Ithaca campus, has been active in many aspects of intellectual property management.

"While advancing the university's land-grant mission and boosting the state and national economy, technology transfer returns many benefits to the university," Buhrman noted. In addition to the direct revenue from licensing patents, he said, technology transfer enhances Cornell's image as a leader in innovative research, helps attract and retain top faculty and encourages state, federal and industrial research support.

The goal for Cornell, he said, should be to compare favorably with other major research institutions on such measures as disclosures, patents filed and awarded, agreements signed, startups based on Cornell intellectual property and licensing revenues. "Last year we had a record year in licensing and startups and income," he reported, "and the indications are that this will be another strong year."

Buhrman's new role will include oversight of the university's patent office, the Cornell Center for Technology Transfer, Economic Development and Commercialization (CCTEC), and the implementation of intellectual property policy and practices affecting all of Cornell's campuses. He will work with the Technology Transfer Advisory Committee, whose membership is chosen from Cornell trustees and overseers, university administrators and faculty inventors.

CCTEC assists faculty and staff in securing patent protection for their inventions, and promotes Cornell discoveries by licensing Cornell patents to commercial businesses and assisting inventors in creating their own startup companies.

Buhrman noted the importance of balancing the needs of CCTEC, individual inventors and the university's sponsored programs and research compliance offices. He emphasized the importance of having clear, written guidelines for all aspects of intellectual property management. Many of these are already in place, he said, and others are in development.

Buhrman received his Ph.D. at Cornell in 1973 and joined the faculty the same year, eventually becoming the John Edson Sweet Professor of Engineering in the School of Applied and Engineering Physics. Before his appointment in 2007 as vice provost for research he served as director of the Cornell Center for Nanoscale Systems. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the Materials Research Society, Buhrman continues to conduct his own research on nanomagnetics, condensed matter physics at the nanometer scale and thin film materials and device physics.