We at Fuentek are big believers in the power of specific, tailored marketing messages for technology transfer. Our approach focuses on the AMMO: Audience, Message, Mechanism, Outcome. In today’s Stories from the Field post, I’m going to share specific details of how we used this method to help a client accomplish a successful tech transfer outreach event.
NASA’s Glenn Research Center approached us about putting together a technology showcase that would introduce Ohio businesses to select Glenn technologies and capabilities with commercial potential that were also aligned with Ohio economic development sectors. Their idea was to let Ohio companies know that Glenn is “Open for Business” and that there are business opportunities for Ohio companies using NASA technologies, capabilities, and facilities.
The Glenn Technology Showcase happened last Friday and was a great success. Here’s how we helped Glenn achieve its goal of connecting with Ohio businesses and establishing a strong foundation for tech transfer and partnerships:
A: Audience: The event needed to be tailored to the interests of local and regional high-tech and manufacturing firms. Therefore, Glenn worked with economic development directors in Ohio to ensure the right companies were reached with an invitation to the event. Glenn was also fortunate to have Mark Kvamme, director of the Ohio Department of Development give a keynote address about how state government views Glenn’s role in Ohio economic development. These factors, along with a rich event Web site that Fuentek designed and implemented, resulted in more than 200 attendees representing 140 high-tech, manufacturing, and economic development organizations. Lesson: Identifying your target audience up front and appealing to their interests will result in a higher hit rate—in this case, the number of attendees for the event.
M: Message: NASA Glenn has phenomenal technologies and capabilities and wants to transfer them to commercial companies as well as to participate in collaborative R&D. So we helped 35 NASA subject matter experts (SMEs) develop presentations for the showcase that described their technologies in ways that were meaningful to attendees—focusing on answering the attendees’ “What’s in it for me?” questions. We helped the SMEs focus on practical applications, benefits, and potential market-based return on investment (ROI) enabled by the technology rather than on the technical details of how their technology worked. Lesson: Working with SMEs to guide them toward effective presentations that draw clear connections from the technology to the marketplace results in a more engaged audience and hence a stronger likelihood of securing deals.
M: Mechanism: In order to reach the broadest audience in Ohio, Glenn opted for a public technology showcase. At the 1-day event, Glenn showed off 35 cutting-edge technologies and capabilities identified as having commercial potential in five technical areas: biomedical, advanced/alternative energy, materials and structures, sensors and electronics, and advanced propulsion. Although the “Technology Tracks” were the feature of the event, Fuentek proposed the inclusion of a special “Business/Partnering with NASA Track” to explain how external organizations could engage with NASA.
In the morning sessions, there were standing-room only crowds in this track. Attendees learned about the various mechanisms for working with NASA, what NASA facilities are available for external use to meet product development and testing needs, where to find small business resources, and approaches to leveraging external funding for technology development. These packed sessions highlighted the fact that companies were there to make connections, network, and learn how to work with NASA.
Simultaneous to the technology and business presentations, there was a “Technology Exchange” for attendees to meet one-on-one with researchers and tech transfer representatives. These exchanges generated numerous collaborative discussions.
Lesson: Choose a mechanism—in this case, presentations and a technology exchange—that your audience will be comfortable with and, therefore, will be more engaged. And when planning such events, be sure to include information attendees need to know in terms of next steps to make tech transfer or partnerships happen. (I’ve blogged before about what makes for a good tech transfer event.)
O: Outcome: The near-term objective of the event was to increase awareness of and interest in Glenn technologies and to lay a foundation for ongoing progress toward commercialization of those innovations and partnerships with Ohio businesses. Long-term goals include trying to build these relationships into tangible collaborations and licenses; therefore, follow-up contacts to attendees will be occurring in the coming weeks. Lesson: Knowing what you want before you embark on a project will help to ensure that you meet your outcomes. We are only a few days after the event, but so far all signs point to a success!