Great Tech Transfer Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Stories from the Field

Marathon RunnerWhile everyone likes a sprint, the reality is that tech transfer with the greatest impact usually is a marathon. Negotiating effective tech transfer agreements can seem as arduous, and there are so many steps along the path where you can trip or even fall. But taking the longer view always has better benefits for you and your potential licensee/partner. That’s the focus of today’s Stories from the Field post.

We were leading a marketing campaign for a green energy innovation for a government client. This innovation was so timely and cool that our marketing campaign netted not one but two non-exclusive licensing deals. (Woo-hoo!) When a third potential licensee contacted us, we could have sprinted for the finish line and high-fived our client. Instead, in discussing with this potential licensee the intended use for our client’s innovation, we realized that a license wasn’t the best route to success.

As a licensee, the company would have to purchase too much infrastructure in order to make the venture truly workable. The simpler solution for the company was to buy units from one of the other licensees. The royalties would be good news for our client, but we didn’t stop there.

After several discussions, we realized that the company’s humanitarian focus aligned well with our client’s R&D strengths. We also learned the company could provide our client with access to “real-world” test conditions that the lab lacked. Perfect! Rather than license technology, why not work in collaboration on a variety of R&D projects—well beyond the scope of the innovation that first drew them together.

So we facilitated discussions between both parties to craft an agreement that was favorable to all involved. It’s taken a lot of time, but in the end, the situation is truly win-win. Under the agreement, our client will receive new technology and testing environments from the company that will further its work, and the company not only will be able to realize its original commercial goals but has been introduced to R&D opportunities it was not even aware of before our interactions.

The lesson? Tech transfer is about developing a win-win situation for everyone involved, and that win is not always the first hurdle that you see. Look for the right fit not only for yourself but also for the party on the other side of the negotiating table. If a license isn’t the best fit for them, then it’s not the best fit for you either. Turning things into another, yet still productive, arrangement that may involve a completely different mechanism can still have value in many ways.

In this case, the decision not to pursue the short-term metric of a signed license has turned into a deal that will offer a huge impact to our client and possibly for humanitarian efforts in Third World countries where this green technology can be so beneficial. And all because of the choice not to sprint.

What’s your marathon story? Or can you share a sprint that didn’t work as planned? Leave a comment below or use our Contact Us page to send us your experiences privately.

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Posted by Doug Foster

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