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University tries to incubate a few good inventions

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A radar sheep-finder . . . a hand-held weather forecasting calculator . . . an electric moped . . . a new computer ''chip'' design.

Dozens of such inventions have come to the doorstep of te University of Utah ever since it opened the Utah Innovation Center four years ago.

Many have come, but few are chosen.

''Backyard inventors are good people, but they aren't going to put the United States ahead in the technological race,'' Wayne Brown, the center's director, says. ''What we need to do in this country is foster small high-technology companies. And we're not doing that very well now.''

The university, which also opened a ''research park'' for high-tech firms near its campus over a decade ago as well as starting the innovation center in 1978, claims to have spawned over two dozen high-technology companies from its research labs.

The ''U,'' as it is known in the Salt Lake area, ranks among the top 25 American universities receiving federal research dollars, mainly in the health areas.

''We're the basic resource in manpower training for the state's new companies ,'' says university vice-president R.J. Snow.

Besides manpower, however, the university provides the ideas and the nurturing process for high-tech nestlings. As an academic institution, the school has not been uneasy in promoting private enterprise, even though critics say trade secrets and product liability could possibly compromise scholarly freedom. ''If you look at it from society's point of view, the innovation center makes sense,'' says Dr. Brown, who has helped hatch three companies himself.

The innovation center started under a $250,000 National Science Foundation grant. By tapping the advice of

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