Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

Helping University TTOs Talk-Up Tech Transfer

For my first few posts on the Fuentek blog, I will be writing about several topics that came up at the AUTM® Eastern Region Meeting in Boston earlier this week. It was a great meeting, and it was particularly interesting for me now that I’ve returned to the Northeast, departing my position as director of a university technology transfer office (TTO) and transitioning into a consulting role. Today’s post will focus on AUTM president-elect Jane Muir’s luncheon presentation, in which she offered several updates from AUTM. In particular, Jane mentioned two new AUTM initiatives that should be quite helpful to university TTOs in developing public (and congressional) awareness of the benefits of tech transfer. Jane also talked about a great training opportunity at the 2014 AUTM Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

As we all know, tech transfer’s benefits have been repeatedly called into question over the last few years. Most recently, there is the “Patents, Profits, and the American People — The Bayh–Dole Act of 1980” commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine. This commentary joins a growing chorus of voices questioning the value of Bayh-Dole. (And if you haven’t read it yet, be sure to read the reply posted on IPWatchdog from Joe Allen, who was a staffer to Sen. Birch Bayh when the legislation was developed. Joe’s insider’s experience gives Dr. Markel’s “history” lesson a reality check.) The new AUTM initiatives Jane presented give TTOs some useful tools in responding to the ongoing negative press. (BTW, AUTM also has updated its “Bayh-Dole: It’s Working” talking points.)

The first is that AUTM will be producing a 2-minute video explaining in lay terms what tech transfer is and describing its value to society.  I have found the AUTM Better World Report useful in this regard, but in today’s time-starved world, a 2-minute video presentation sounds like a welcome tool for TTOs and other professionals to use in promoting tech transfer to their constituencies.

The second initiative — called the “Put a Face on It” Video Award — is somewhat related. AUTM is soliciting proposals from its members for grant funding (a reimbursement of up to $3,000) to produce videos showcasing case studies at their own institutions. AUTM’s Web site has more information on the “Put a Face on It” initiative.

Jane also mentioned that there will be free “mini-courses” at the upcoming annual meeting. As I understood it, this new feature would consist of high-level versions of the paid training currently offered by AUTM. Given tight budgets and time constraints, I expect these mini-courses will be well-received by the AUTM membership. You can read a little bit more about the mini-courses as well as other details about the meeting in the AUTM 2014 brochure.

In future posts I’ll be discussing some of the Eastern Region Meeting sessions. If you were at the meeting, I hope you’ll join the conversation by posting a comment below. Or feel free to send me a private message.