I had the pleasure and privilege to attend and speak at the 2011 AUTM® Eastern Region meeting this week. Throughout the meeting, there were many great opportunities to network with colleagues within academic technology transfer offices (TTOs) as well as industry licensing and patent personnel. In those discussions and throughout the presentations, many tech transfer best practices, tips, etc. were shared.
For example, one speaker on Monday, Bahija Jallal from MedImmune, made some points that are critical for successful university technology transfer with industry. In Dr. Bahija’s first-hand experiences with TTOs, there are three common mistakes: poor first impressions, poor timing, and unrealistic expectations. Let’s consider each of those.
Poor first impressions: It’s a cliché but it’s true: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So be sure you know, for example, if the person you are contacting is a woman. As Dr. Bahija noted, there is nothing more insulting for her than receiving an e-mail addressed to Mr. Bahija. It demonstrates your lack of preparation in researching the person you are trying to develop a relationship with. Also, don’t send technology opportunities in areas that are not aligned with the company’s interest. Instead, do your homework to identify the match between your technologies and the company’s needs. (BTW, you might find Jack Spain’s suggestions for effective communication with potential licensees/partners helpful.)
Poor timing: Be sure to bring the right players to the table at the right time. Don’t wait until the relationship has been defined before bringing in attorneys who may redline all you have worked to define. That can shut things down. And keep the inventors/scientists involved throughout. (This reminded me of the panel I served on last June at an LES/ASAP meeting focused on managing intellectual property (IP) issues in alliance collaborations.)
Unrealistic expectations: Don’t think that a company is going to agree to a 3-year sponsored research agreement saying, “Here is the money. Just report back at the end of 3 years.” If your university is seeking money and collaboration with industry, remember that it needs to be real collaboration and not just a financial exchange. Of course, truly collaborative R & D partnerships can be challenging to form. You might find my 8 keys to success in forming R & D partnerships post from 3 weeks ago useful.
Did you attend the meeting in Baltimore? If so, what were your favorite pearls of wisdom? Add a comment below or feel free to contact Fuentek to share your thoughts with us.