Niels J. Reimers, founder and former director of Stanford University's Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), begins his interview describing his family and living in Norway and Carmel, California. He describes his student days at Stanford and Oregon State as a mechanical engineering major, and he reflects on the three years he spent in the Navy on the USS Bon Homme Richard.
Reimers also discusses his experience as an industrial engineer at Ampex and his transition into marketing at Philco Western Development Laboratories (later Philco-Ford) where he learned about contract law and how to develop new products from scratch. Reimers recounts his work as lead negotiator for Ford Aeronutronic on a contract change to the Reentry Management Program with the US Air Force and his departure from industry.
Reimers describes his return to Stanford as Associate Director of Research Administration and his early interest in commercializing research inventions. He speaks of the system present at Stanford when he arrived in which there was no organized patent program. Inventions were sent to an outside company, Research Corporation, for licensing, and Stanford received minimal royalty income. Reimers describes the creation and approval of the pilot program for the Office of Technology Licensing and the development of a new royalty distribution system.
He remembers the inventors and inventions he worked with, including Bill Johnson’s synthetic juvenile growth hormone for pest control, John Chowning’s work with altering the perceptual location of sound in space for electronic keyboards, Stan Cohen’s plasmid and Herb Boyer’s restriction enzyme which led to recombinant DNA, and Art Schawlow’s lasers for erasing.
Reimers goes on to describe the autonomy he had managing OTL, his relationship with various deans of research, and working through potential conflicts of interest for inventors. He also discusses how OTL’s entrepreneurial model set it apart from other universities.
Reimers recounts his involvement with the Bayh-Dole bill, which gave universities the right to the results of their research. He later reflects on his time spent at MIT, the University of California,Berkley, and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) working to help them reform their technology licensing programs.
Reimers concludes the interview by summarizing his experience at Stanford, reminiscing about the research discoveries he came across, and reflecting on changes in the administration at Stanford, his retirement, and his activities after he left Stanford.
Niels J. Reimers, Stanford Historical Society, oral histories, interviews, higher education, administrators, Stanford University--Office of Technology Licensing, technology transfer, patents, patent licenses, license agreements, universities and colleges--research, universities and colleges--faculty, universities and colleges--administration, and Bayh-Dole Act
July 2, 2015
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program interviews, 1999-2012