There was an article in the October issue of Technology Transfer Tactics about university tech transfer offices tapping into their student body for low-cost labor. I whole-heartedly agree that—with the right training program—students can be a huge help to TTOs both when times are tight and when budgets are flush.
Back in 2001, Fuentek facilitated the implementation of a student intern program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), which the Office of Technology Management continues to use and refine to this day. We discovered that a key success factor was to hire the students for the summer. Working with students full-time for a couple of months gave us enough time to train them well and help them understand the “why” as well as the “what” of their role. After that in-depth period, they are able to contribute throughout the school year on a part-time basis.
Proper training is essential. Students hired on only a part-time basis during the school year will not be as effective and will probably cost you more time and energy in managing their assignments. (This is another example of why you have to remember the long-term impact of your short-term solutions.)
But with the right training and the right students—engineering/science students seeking their MBAs—you will be on a path to creating the future for your office and the profession.
That’s what happened with our program: One of our interns from 2001 was Lesley Millar, who went on to become the director of UIUC’s OTM. Lesley now heads up MIT’s Technology Licensing Office.
Editor’s Note: Fuentek has gone on to share many more insights about internship programs. Check them out and then contact us to discuss how Fuentek can help you set up an effective TTO internship program.