I just returned from a fantastic trip to conduct a technology transfer training session for inventors at NASA’s Glenn Research Center (GRC). I led a session for some of GRC’s brightest and best—those developing new innovations to meet the challenges faced by NASA missions. We wanted to give these innovators information about how the technologies they develop can be used beyond what they originally envisioned—and how they play a key role in the technology transfer processes of licensing and partnering.
At many organizations, especially government labs and universities, the innovators are busy with their heads down focusing on their work. They often don’t appreciate or understand how important it is to capture those new inventions—whether they are tangible technologies, processes, or software—as soon as they are developed. But it is vitally important for them personally, for their organization, and for helping to get their inventions out into the world—through tech transfer—to make a difference.
We had several goals in mind for the training. We wanted to help innovators understand:
- What an invention is (widget, process, or software) so they can identify when they have something to report or disclose to their organization
- Why reporting new technologies is important
- The process for reporting new technologies (when to report, what information they will need to complete the form, how to fill them out, and where to submit them)
- How their organization evaluates the technology disclosures for potential licensing and partnerships
- How they can play an active role in the technology transfer process in partnership with the technology transfer office
As we approached this training at GRC, we really took time to talk with the management there to help them help us better understand what motivates their research engineers and scientists. We did not want a training session that just spits out the facts and the innovators’ official responsibilities. We wanted it to be meaningful to the inventors in order for them to take what they learned in the training and apply it. Our training approach was to help the innovators understand that by disclosing their technologies, they are helping ensure that they will be able to do more of what motivates them in the first place: solving challenges to problems in new and creative ways. We shaped our training around that—bringing full circle the breadth of exciting things that can come only after reporting their invention, such as evaluation of market need, awards, licenses, partnerships to expand upon their research, and more.
I think the training session was highly successful, and I’m excited to see how the innovators at GRC will begin applying what we covered. If you are embarking on training for innovators at your organization, I would suggest keeping these points in mind:
- Understand their motivations. Be sure to learn what drives your inventors, so you can craft your training around that, rather than just telling them what they are responsible for.
- Make it interactive. Ask questions and solicit answers. Encourage discussion and conversation. This will help keep the innovators engaged, and they will take away more from the training if they are active participants in it—just as you want them to actively participate in the tech transfer process itself!
- Keep it professional, but light on formality. While training should be run in a professional, well-planned manner, keeping the tone light and informal will help participants feel relaxed, and this will encourage them toward a higher level of participation. We set this tone from the beginning, starting with the poster we used to advertise the training (we used the fun photo featured here).
Do you have other insights from training innovators about their role in tech transfer? Leave a comment below, or contact us to share your experience.