It’s a bit like a Tolstoy novel: Happy internship programs are all alike. Well, maybe not alike. But they are pretty consistent across the technology transfer spectrum.
This was the consensus of panelists and attendees at a session of the Association of University Technology Managers® annual meeting in Anaheim, California. The dynamic and interactive Frequently Asked Questions about Intern Programs session about effective internship programs attracted quite a crowd, especially considering it was one of the final sessions on the last day of the meeting (an indicator of how important this topic is to university TTOs).
I’ve blogged in the past about how internship programs can be a valuable asset to TTOs as long as there is proper structuring and significant investment in training and mentoring. (You can easily find these past blogs in our Insights section on internship programs.) These recommendations were based on Fuentek’s experience with several university clients.
It was gratifying to hear from other organizations that had implemented a similar approach with similar success.
Moderated by Dr. Cory Acuff of Emory University, the session drew on industry best practices to answer questions about the Who, What, When, Why, and How surrounding internship programs. I joined Drs. Kimberlynn B. Davis of McKeon Meunier Carlin & Curfman LLC, Stephen J. Susalka of Wake Forest University Health Sciences, and Patrick Twomey of the National Cancer Institute to discuss successful internship programs and what makes them tick.
In general, everyone agreed on the principles of running a good internship program: choose the right candidates, train them well, provide them with the support they need to succeed, and evaluate their work in order to validate their recommendations and ensure they bring value to your organization.
Having clear objectives and expectations is key, but also recognize that the return on investment is not necessarily a clear financial benefit. Consider the approach taken by Wake Forest University Health Sciences, where one role of the interns is to serve as “ambassadors” between the tech transfer office and various research departments. Interns give formal presentations about the value of tech transfer to their peers within their departments. At WFU, one goal of the internship program is increasing invention disclosures, and these formal presentations allow interns to educate colleagues and at the same time develop relationships that foster tech transfer opportunities.
My contribution to the panel discussion? I had a lot of fun developing a David Letterman-style presentation of the Top 10 Hints Your Tech Transfer Internship Program Is in Trouble.
That list is based on Fuentek’s extensive experience developing and enhancing university TTO internship programs. To discuss how we can help your office establish or improve an internship program, contact us today.