Editor’s note: This is the last in a six-post series on how Fuentek views technology licensing through a new PRISM.
Metrics are one of the most challenging aspects of licensing that any technology transfer office (TTO) faces when pursuing commercialization of intellectual property. And yet they’re one of the most important.
You have to have an understanding of where you’re spending your time and what results you’re getting. You need it to report out to your management and gain the ammunition you need to ask for an increase in your staff. Plus, being able to demonstrate your success builds your credibility with potential licensees.
So we agree that metrics are important. But in order to successfully monitor and proactively manage your progress, you have to identify and efficiently capture the key operational metrics.
But how on earth do you do that?! Well, Fuentek did a little research and coupled those findings with more than a dozen years of experience. Here’s a glimpse into what we found out.
Align your metrics with your goals. If one of your goals is to generate licensing revenue, then track royalties and fees. (Duh!) If you want to be a responsive, efficient TTO, track how many days pass between an invention disclosure comes in and when you make the strategic/disposition decision for it. Also track how long it takes for you to tell the innovation’s inventor about that decision.
Normalize for apples-to-apples comparisons. Pure numbers without context can be misleading. So measure performance relative to appropriate factors. For example, measure the number of disclosures per $10M in research expenditures. Measure cycle-time, process-efficiency metrics according to the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs).
Select metrics that address the concerns of your “audiences:” Different people care about different metrics. The metrics needed for internal goal setting and progress tracking are probably not going to inspire the public or members of Congress. So (without going overboard) make sure your list of metrics is comprehensive enough to be useful when talking to your various “stakeholders.”
Remember that numbers do not tell the whole story. Augment your quantitative metrics reporting with success stories and anecdotes that illustrate intangible benefits to, say, the regional economy or humanitarian efforts. Fuentek has prepared such stories for NASA centers for technology transfer successes that helped earthquake relief efforts in Haiti and are enabling off-grid refrigeration of vaccines in developing countries.
Automate the capturing and reporting processes. If you do a good job with the “I” in PRISM—Information Management—all of the data you need for your metrics should be captured automatically and then be easy to pull into a report. A tall order, I know. But it’s far from impossible if you get a good system.
There is much more to say about all of this. So to help TTOs—particularly those in academia and government—Fuentek has posted a white paper about metrics called “How’d We Do?: Establishing Useful Technology Transfer Metrics.” In it are specific suggestions for establishing a useful system for metrics. (Dare I call it “the metrics system”?!)
So what challenges have you faced in collecting performance metrics? And, more importantly, how have you overcome them?