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McGill Reporter
May 25, 2000 - Volume 32 Number 17
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To the editor:

I have read with great interest your recent article praising an anticipated investment of $1.3 million on the part of the University for new TA-ships (More TA's expected, May 4, 2000). While no one can deny the academic value that TA-ships hold for faculty and graduate students alike, the financial benefits to graduate students are muted by the administration's proposal to collect an additional $150 per annum in administration fees from every full-time graduate student, amounting to more than 50% of the university's proposed reinvestment.

Last fall, the administration indicated to Senate and the Board of Governors that graduate student recruitment and support are among its top priorities. I would submit that a first step towards boosting our competitiveness would be to aim to reduce, rather than augment, the impact that increases in ancillary fees have had on enrollment.

Robert Sim
PhD senator

To the editor:

In recent issues of the Reporter, the role of OTT has come up for discussion. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify OTT's mission and to talk about the steps we're taking to improve the ways in which we are able to support the commercialization efforts of McGill researchers.

In the past, OTT operated with a very limited number of professionals, yet expectations were high. Therefore, there were delays in handling or monitoring the progress of files. This is not over yet. While new professionals are being added to the team, the training period is long in this field. Researchers seldom understand the process. In four out of five cases, OTT is waiting for the sponsor to modify some terms or finalize a negotiation. Researchers, most of the time, only see the final product of this negotiation. This is when impatience escalates. Students may be on the hook to be hired and work must be started as deadlines approach.

With the participation of the deans, we have implemented satellite offices. The OTT liaison officers operating within faculties and hospitals will better address the needs of our clients. OTT officers are now operating within three major clusters: life sciences, engineering and software, and agri-environment-chemistry.

We have introduced a short form for service contracts under $10,000 and the report of invention form has been reworked to fit on a single page (plus annexes as needed); both are available on our web site. These are on-going improvements in response to the feedback of our clients.

OTT priorities have also focused on administrative issues, although financing issues and the development of larger projects, i.e., a new commercialization entity in association with University of Sherbrooke, Bishop's and the affiliated hospitals, have absorbed most of my time this past year.

During this period we also introduced a new administrative database for contracts with a related database for inventions and licences. The latter is in the pro-cess of implementation and dovetailing with Banner. We are adding a new resource person to help in the administration of these databases, which has been maintained by our administrator, Joy Gumbley. We have had few complaints or errors in the past two years. However, any database has a human component and we are certainly always available to review any data if you notice an inconsistency. We have also introduced new mechanisms to allow both transparency to the users and administration and to protect the confidentiality of information.

Two years ago, OTT introduced its first web site. A second generation web site is about to be launched and will incorporate additional services both with respect to OTT and to better promote our clients' capabilities and technologies. We will also develop some promotional tools that will be available to researchers when they travel.

In conclusion, OTT is far from static. As mentioned above, the implementation of a commercialization corporation, which will provide seed funding to promising projects, will add to our tools and create a new dynamic within McGill to further enhance innovation development.

I hope the readers of the McGill Reporter will subscribe to these changes and that these clarifications will bring some light to past comments published in this paper. I certainly welcome any suggestions on them.

Alex Navarre, PhD, MBA
Director, Office of Technology Transfer

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