SANTA FE, N.M.—John Pearson, director of Michigan State University’s Technology Transfer Center, was encouraging a local entrepreneur to visit the campus to seek the scientific advice he needed. “Gee, I wouldn’t even know what to wear,” the businessman responded.

Unfortunately for Pearson, the differences between academia and small businesses run deeper than apparel. That’s why he and colleagues in 24 states have formed a consortium of universities to help small high-tech businesses develop new commercial technologies.

The immediate focus of the Phoenix-based University Small Business Technology Consortium is the Small Business Innovation Research awards, a five-year-old program that offers small businesses a tiny slice of the federal re- search budget. But “SBIR is hardly the total focus of this consortium,” stressed acting director Milton Stewart, a former president of the National Small Business Association.

For the time being, however, Stewart is urging member universities to locate small firms likely to...

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