Clyde Briant, Brown University’s vice president for research, at the Association of American Universities and the Science Coalition’s Science Roundtable, held Wednesday in Washington. (Eugene Salazar)

Good morning!

Welcome to the morning read:

1) University lab chiefs confront innovation challenges

Leaders of some of the nation’s largest university research institutions gathered in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the future of innovation at their laboratories in the wake of declining government funding. The Science Roundtable was organized by the Science Coalition and the Association of American Universities.

Among the items addressed: whether the term ”tech transfer” — the transfer of knowledge, technology and skills to a wider pool of individuals and institutions — had been replaced by the word “innovation” (the general agreement was that it hasn’t); and the potential benefits and pitfalls with aligning with corporations as government funding options disappear.

“Tech transfer actually has a different definition now than what it meant,” said Leslie Tolbert, vice president for research at the University of Arizona. “What we think about now are the students coming out of our universities. Now, it’s about the land grant mission — sharing new research results, rather than taking the time and effort and expense for technology commercialization.”

Clyde Briant, vice president for research at Brown University, said that it had merely taken time to develop the ecosystem for tech transfer, not that the term had disappeared or been replaced by another.

“We’re at one of the most exciting periods in science and innovation,” said Stephen Forrest, vice president for research at the University of Michigan, “I think, if anything, this is the time to be alive.”

Forrest also highlighted touch-pad technology: It had been around for years but no one envisioned it being distributed widely, as it has been through the nascent tablet and smartphone markets.

As to the emerging closeness between industry and academia, Briant warned that universities should steer clear of merely reaching out to industry for cash. Instead, Briant advocated for increased partnerships where universities took on the long-term research work for corporations, thereby giving their students easy access to professional connections, training and potential job offers. Briant also warned against university labs attempting to accomplish the quick-turnaround work for which corporations cultivate highly specialized teams.

2) Are we in a tech bubble? Here’s an illustrated answer.

Our own Vivek Wadhwa has argued that tech companies are being wildly overvalued, denying funding to other companies more deserving of a higher valuation. The folks at KISSmetrics and Fee Fighters put together an infographic detailing some key data points about the tech bubble of the ‘90s and the current stock activity happening today.


3) Robot hobbyists just got a new toy.

A recent offering of the Kinect service for robotics by Microsoft may mean your cellphone could be turned into a robot. GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel reports that Microsoft has now made the Xbox Kinect accessory available for download. This would allow everyday users to access the Kinect sensor data to use in their own robotics projects.

Here, Trevor Taylor, a program manager in the Microsoft Robotics Group describes the new toys features available:


4) Girls sweep the Google Science Fair

The latest slate of winners at the Google Science Fair are a show of girl power. Here are the three winners, as listed on Google’s official blog:

Lauren Hodge in the 13-14 age group. Lauren studied the effect of different marinades on the level of potentially harmful carcinogens in grilled chicken.
Naomi Shah in the 15-16 age group. Naomi endeavored to prove that making changes to indoor environments that improve indoor air quality can reduce people’s reliance on asthma medications.
Shree Bose in the 17-18 age group. Shree discovered a way to improve ovarian cancer treatment for patients when they have built up a resistance to certain chemotherapy drugs.

Bose also won the grand prize — a package that includes a $50,000 scholarship, an internship at CERN, and a trip to the Galapagos islands with National Geographic Explorer. Second- and third-place winners receive a $25,000 scholarship and internships at LEGO and Google. All three received lifetime digital subscriptions to Scientific American.

(Google via TechLand)

5) Spotify lands in America

The music streaming service Spotify is coming to the United States on Thursday. Engadget reports they have received word from a Spotify representative that the much anticipated service would have the support of all four major record labels as well as a number of independent labels.