Updated February 2016
Has your tech transfer office set some new year’s resolutions? I’ve been doing some thinking about that, particularly in the context of the political landscape of late that TTOs must navigate.
It’s certainly not news that in the last few years politics has been the tail wagging the dog when it comes to tech transfer. For example, there has been a big push toward using tech transfer to generate economic development and startups. But well-intentioned policies are not always aligned with what really brings value to technology communities, not to mention the universities and government labs where the technologies originate.
When the federal government (or an organization’s internal administration) creates incentives for startups or economic development (BTW, the two terms are not synonymous) or partnerships or other goals, TTOs often are very quick to jump on the latest initiative. But making decisions for the long run rather than for short-term reasons is always going to glean better results. And this applies not only to shifting political winds but also to lean-budget times as well as negotiating agreements.
Tech transfer offices that consistently evaluate their technologies from a market perspective (rather than trying to force it based on the initiative du jour) more readily recognize the technologies that can and should go the startup route or that require additional collaborative R&D. These are the TTOs that will be most successful now and in the years to come.
BTW, the same is true for professors, who are increasingly looking to address real-world issues. Those that focus on fundamental research geared toward highly relevant outcomes—whether from a commercial, economic, or humanitarian perspective—have the greatest success.
So, with all of this in mind, here are my top 5 recommendations for TTO new year’s resolutions:
1. Mine for the gems, discard the coal: Use cost-effective, consistent processes to screen all inventions and quickly down-select to those with the highest market potential. Focus your efforts and resources there.
2. Stop reacting, start proacting: Don’t wait for your licensing prospects to come to you. Create proactive, strategic, efficient marketing plans to go get them and secure a deal.
3. Remember the AMMO in marketing: Props to Howie Jacobson for his Fast Company post about speaking “Doglish.” Always remember your audience, message, mechanism, and outcome.
5. Let go of your fear: Surprisingly, one of the biggest obstacles to tech transfer success has nothing to do with process, skills, or funding. It’s the fear of making a bad decision, which usually leads to making no decision. There are ways to make the best decision possible. So do those things, and make it!