January 11, 2013

Wichita State to favor Kansas firms in sharing research

Wichita State University President John Bardo caught the attention of area legislators Thursday when he outlined a plan to keep more of the real-world application of the university’s research in Kansas.

Wichita State University President John Bardo caught the attention of area legislators Thursday when he outlined a plan to keep more of the real-world application of the university’s research in Kansas.

Bardo, who joined WSU in October, said the university will be reorganizing its research efforts over the coming year to favor sharing new technology with companies that agree to keep production in the state, rather than selling to the highest bidder.

“We should be focusing on the needs of the people of the state that created the university,” Bardo said. “That’s a bias of mine. It’s not the way universities usually operate, but it is my bias.”

Bardo outlined his technology transfer plan as part of a presentation to the South Central Kansas Legislative Delegation, which met Thursday at WSU’s Hughes Metropolitan Complex to hear legislative requests from local government and business groups. The 2103 legislative session begins next week in Topeka.

Bardo was the only speaker who got a round of applause from the approximately 20 lawmakers at the meeting.

The university performs about $50 million worth of research a year, funded primarily from competitive federal grants and from private-sector businesses, especially in the aviation industry, Bardo said.

One WSU professor is working to culture ovarian cancer cells outside the body, so researchers can conduct experiments without risking harm to human test subjects. Another researcher is working on a project that may have identified a protein that causes cancer to spread through the body, which could revolutionize treatment, he said.

Bardo said he wants to funnel the potentially profitable results of those and other projects into the Kansas economy.

“I want the jobs in Kansas,” he said. “I want the development in Kansas. That’s what we’re about as a university.”

Later, he said the university will consider making different kinds of deals to accomplish that. For example, WSU might accept a minority ownership stake in a developing Kansas business as payment for its research, rather than selling it for cash to a company out of state.

“We will forgo some income if it means that the (business) person will stay local,” Bardo said. “I would much rather get the intellectual property out to improve the quality of the state than just to say, ‘Well, gosh, I got an extra $10,000 by licensing to China,’ (because) that’s really not all that helpful.”

Legislators from both parties said they were impressed with Bardo’s plan.

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat whose district includes WSU, said she saw signs of agreement throughout the delegation, which is often divided on educational issues.

“That’s good stuff, absolutely,” she said.

Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita and WSU alumnus, said Bardo’s plan could help both the state and the university.

“He understands that academia and business have a relationship,” Brunk said. “It’s smart, what he’s proposed, to take that intellectual property and capitalize on it.”

Faust-Goudeau to lead legislative delegation

After being denied once before because of partisan politics, Democratic state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau is getting her chance to lead the South Central Kansas Legislative Delegation.

The group, made up of legislators from Sedgwick and neighboring counties, elected the Wichita senator as chairwoman during its annual pre-session meeting Thursday. Faust-Goudeau will serve in the position through the upcoming legislative year that begins next week.

The chair of the delegation usually takes a lead role in organizing support for local priorities that cross party lines, such as funding for aviation research at Wichita State University, graduate education at the University of Kansas medical school campus in Wichita, and subsidies for low-fare air service at Mid-Continent Airport.

Faust-Goudeau said she is looking forward to working with a new delegation that had high turnover in last year’s elections.

“There are a lot of new players here who are going to have a learning curve,” she said.

Faust-Goudeau served as co-chair of the delegation in 2007 with Jason Watkins, who was then a state representative but has left the House and now works in government relations for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The parties had traditionally traded the delegation leadership, with a Republican serving one year and Democrats the next.

A state representative before she became a senator in 2009, Faust-Goudeau was the Democrats’ choice for chair in 2007.

But Republican lawmakers, exercising their dominance of the local legislative delegation, opted to split the post.

Since then, “we went back to doing the fair thing; I think it’s fair,” Faust-Goudeau said.

This year, the normal rotation is for the chair to go to a Democratic senator. Faust-Goudeau is the only Democratic senator in the delegation.

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