Worth Reading: Recent writings (and recordings) on tech transfer topics

At Fuentek, we’re constantly monitoring industry literature and the blogosphere for the latest news, information, and trends. Several items have come up recently that I think should be required reading for tech transfer pros.

An Insider’s Guide to the HotHouse: This blog post from WaikatoLink briefly discusses an interesting format for a tech transfer office (TTO) internship program. (WaikatoLink is the commercialization and tech transfer company of the University of Waikato in New Zealand.) Having used interns for years for typical TTO functions such as performing market research, WaikatoLink has taken the next step, creating the HotHouse as “an environment that encourages creative thinking and collaborative learning.” I think it sounds pretty interesting. (You can read more about Fuentek’s advice on TTO internship programs on our Insights Web page.)

Learning from Open Innovation (PDF download): Researchers from the UK-based University of Birmingham and Warwick Business School (WBS) have written this paper on “how openness in one period generates learning effects in the next period which enable firms to be ‘better’ at open innovation.” It’s a highly academic read, but the authors’ conclusions are worth noting:

Our results suggest that investing time in learning how to manage [boundary-spanning innovation] linkages, and in deciding which ones have the highest returns and are therefore most deserving of limited management resources, has definite future payoffs. The benefits of such linkages do not therefore derive solely from the extent and nature of current relationships, but from the knowledge gained in the learning process that takes place through time. This suggests that time spent even in relationships that do not pay off in the short run need not be time wasted: learning which relationships not to pursue is an important part of the learning process, and may help to make future linkages more productive.

I couldn’t agree more. Open innovation isn’t easy… although we at Fuentek happen to think it’s easier when you pursue it as Symbiotic Innovation. But the processes associated with open innovation involve important market research as well as crucial self-evaluation, all of which yields useful information that will help you leverage both sides of innovation: spin-out and spin-in. You can read more of our insights on Symbiotic Innovation here. (And thanks to strategy+business.com for its post on the WBS working paper.)

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot: On the IPWatchdog site, longtime tech transfer professional Joe Allen has written a good summary of some of the issues associated with President Obama’s recent initiatives regarding university tech transfer. The views expressed are a good representation of what is recognized by many experts in the tech transfer field across sectors (not just university TTOs): that the “free agent” model of tech transfer is flawed. Frankly, firms like Fuentek would greatly benefit from the free-agent model. And yet I understand all of the issues and impracticalities that would result from such a model and cannot support it. Of course, since then the President issued a memorandum on accelerating tech transfer and commercialization of federal research in support of high-growth businesses. More on that memo in a later post.

And finally…

NPR recently ran a “Fresh Air” interview with the author of Deadly Monopolies, a book that explores the trends in patenting genes and tissues. As with earlier stories in the popular press about the patent wars, this is not a case where any publicity is good publicity. Far from it. There seems to be a serious need for education on how patents, licenses, and commercialization work, because how things are being presented is definitely leading to some confusion and erroneous conclusions. Don’t get me wrong: I agree that they have some valid points. But they are focused on the wrong part of the value chain or they are misinterpreting a key part so the “blame” falls on the wrong thing. So although this story is not a case of good news, it is something that TTOs need to keep an eye on and do what they can to make sure people understand the value of patents and tech transfer.

So what do you think of these articles? Leave a comment below or send me a private message.

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Posted by Laura Schoppe

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