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WARF: A Model of Technology Transfer Partnership

March 15, 2010
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is the oldest technology transfer office in the United States, founded to manage a University of Wisconsin-Madison discovery that eventually eliminated the childhood disease rickets. WARF works with business and industry to transform university research into real products benefiting society at large—the Wisconsin Idea in action (see "Wisconsin Thrives").

Over the years, the foundation has developed a model of technology transfer based on partnership with the UW-Madison and industry, an approach that today makes it one of the most successful long-term benefactors of technological innovation and public welfare in the country.

WARF played a fundamental role in the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, giving U.S. universities and small businesses the right to own their own federally funded IP and allowing them to license that technology for commercial development.

The mission of this private, non-profit organization is to support scientific research at the UW-Madison, patenting inventions that come out of university research, licensing those technologies to companies for commercialization, and returning the licensing income to the UW-Madison to support further scientific endeavor.  Since making its first grant of $1,200 in 1928, WARF has contributed more than $915 million dollars to the UW-Madison, including monies to fund research, build facilities, purchase lands and equipment, and support a bevy of faculty and graduate student fellowships each year. Each year, WARF contributes over $45 million to fund additional UW Madison research.

Cool facts and hard numbers about WARF:

  • Manages over 800 pending and over 1,000 issued U.S. patents on UW-Madison technologies, as well as more than 2,000 international equivalents

  • Offers more than 1,000 technologies for licensing

  • Maintains more than 500 active commercial license agreements

  • Has completed over 30% of its license agreements with Wisconsin companies

  • Holds equity in 40 UW-Madison spin-off companies

Jennifer Smith, Thrive | Twitter:
Thrive is the economic development enterprise for the 8-county Madison Wisconsin Region.