Many university technology transfer offices (TTOs) use events as a key tool for marketing their innovations to potential licensees. They attend industry conferences, host technology showcases, and even go to the tech-specific level with web-based briefings. Events such as these can provide a valuable opportunity to engage with potential licensees and sponsored-research partners. For offices that are also charged with assisting their startups, this is a chance to engage with potential investors as well. And when done effectively, events can help take a major step forward in securing a deal.
For more than a decade, Fuentek has helped TTO clients—not only universities but also government clients, like NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE)—get the most out of the events they attend and host. Today is the first in a three-part series sharing the best practices and lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Before You Start…
The first step is to identify where your intellectual property (IP) portfolio aligns with the industry you’re trying to engage. This is a relatively easy task if you have organized and optimized the IP portfolio, which shows you:
- Your organization’s core competencies
- The industries that may have interest in each invention
- Closely related technologies that can be marketed (or even licensed) together
If you have a range of technologies that support a single industry with a strong presence in your region, consider hosting your own event. I attended an excellent event this past summer: Marine Innovation Day at the coastally located University of New Hampshire (UNH).
If your IP portfolio has a particularly strong core competency, a more technology-focused approach may be warranted. You could attend a conference, like Sensors Expo, AdvaMed’s MedTech conference, or CAMX, or you could host your own event, perhaps on automotive or medical technologies.
An excellent example of the latter is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transition to Practice program. Focused in the area of cybersecurity, DHS’s program brings together the top technologies from a range of federally funded R&D sites—from DOE labs to universities with National Science Foundation funding. These technologies are then showcased at Technology Demonstration Days. Some of these events are broadly focused, while others have been specific to industry sectors such as energy and financial services.
Remember: It’s Not Just About IP
If your organization has facilities or capabilities of interest to industry, include information about those as well. Think big: What does your organization have to offer that is of interest to industry?
Regardless of whether you host or attend an event, the following guidance will help your TTO maximize the impact of your involvement.
Selecting Technologies and Research
Rather than bombard people with too much information, be selective. Choose the innovations that will be of greatest interest to the attendees. If you have faculty conducting relevant research who want (or need!) R&D partners or sponsors, include them as well. Be sure to consider market fit when making these selections.
As with any piece of marketing collateral, prepare eye-catching pieces that focus on the AMMO: Audience, Message, Mechanism, and Outcome. Focus on the value proposition. And group closely related technologies or research together. Here’s an example from Georgia Tech.
If the event involves researchers—whether in formal presentations or informal networking—help them prepare. For example, in supporting a NASA technology showcase, we helped 35 inventors develop presentations that described their technologies in ways that were meaningful to attendees. We worked with them on being able to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question for the anticipated audience. We helped them focus on their technology’s practical applications and benefits rather than on how their technology was created or worked. Attendees found their presentations to be exceptionally useful.
Again, DHS’s Transition to Practice provides a useful example. The program provides participating researchers with intensive “pitch training” to prepare them for the Tech Demo Days. They learn how to structure an elevator pitch and to describe how a product incorporating their technology fits into the market landscape. This training has greatly contributed to the program’s success.
In the spirit of striking while the iron is hot, reach out to the contacts you made within 1–2 weeks of the event. Whether it’s been a technology briefing or a networking interaction at a conference, we have consistently found that early follow-up is most effective.
If you find these tips useful, stick around. In the next few weeks I’ll be blogging even more advice that is specific to achieving tech transfer success by:
And in the meantime, feel free to contact us to discuss how Fuentek can help your TTO put these recommendations into practice.