Updated September 2016
Even though next summer feels far away, now is the time to begin planning for next summer’s internship program, especially if you’re establishing a new one. Ideally, interns should begin working in the technology transfer office (TTO) at the beginning of the summer following the first year of their graduate program. If you start planning now, you can have the call for applicants go out in early March, interview and select candidates in April, and train them in May.
Using MBA candidates and other graduate students to help screen invention disclosures to identify those with the highest market potential can be a cost-effective resource for university TTOs. Simultaneously, such activities also provide these students with valuable experience. We at Fuentek have long recommended augmenting the technology triage process with interns to help busy, underfunded TTOs screen invention disclosures. We’ve worked with university TTOs across the United States to structure programs and select, train, and mentor candidates, and we’ve shared our insights about internship programs online.
But don’t just take our word for it. Interns have delivered significant value to university TTOs at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Emory University, Wake Forest University, Michigan State University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and other institutions.
And it’s not just big schools/TTOs that make good use of interns, as illustrated in some Technology Transfer Tactics articles. Best practices have been implemented with great success by the TTO at the University of Alabama (UA) in Tuscaloosa, which is a two-person operation. As the article describes, student triage teams help the TTO manage its workload and gain valuable real-world experience. With the students taking over the screening function, the TTO professionals can focus on higher value activities, such as marketing and deal negotiations.
Another example Tactics profiled is the University of Central Florida’s (UCF’s) Student Assistant program. The UCF TTO significantly augments its professional staff, drawing interns from among the school’s business students, legal students, and honors college students.
Interns are an investment for a TTO, but one that will pay off in the long run by providing:
- Experience: Offers extremely valuable training to the students for many careers
- Productivity: Helps the TTO avoid accumulating a technology backlog
- Value: Enables TTOs to screen technologies—and thereby prioritize commercialization efforts—more affordably
- Efficiency: Allows TTO staff to focus on marketing, deal making and other high-value activities
- Leadership: Lays the groundwork for the next generation of tech transfer and business leaders
Remember, though, that internship programs are not inconsequential to manage. The TTO professional in change of the interns must be allotted significant time to train, mentor, and manage them effectively.
For more information, download Fuentek’s white paper, “Developing an Effective Internship Program for Your University’s Technology Transfer Office” (it’s free; all you have to do is register). Or contact me if you have questions or would like Fuentek to help implement an internship program in your TTO.
Editor’s note: Fuentek thanks each of the universities that kindly provided the photos in this blog post.