Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

Three Keys for Bolstering Innovation in Promotion and Tenure Decisions

In late May, I had the pleasure of facilitating a conversation on Incorporating Innovation and Entrepreneurship Activities into Promotion and Tenure Decisions through a webinar with Tech Transfer Central. This session, featuring Rich Carter of Oregon State University and Almesha Campbell of Jackson State University, highlighted the most recent developments with the Promotion and Tenure – Innovation and Entrepreneurship (PTIE) Coalition and also outlined key tips for individuals leading conversations on this subject on their campuses.

In case you missed it, I’ve laid out some key takeaways from that webinar below. We hope that these will be useful wherever you and your organization are on the journey of improving the promotion and tenure process.

Emphasize societal impact.

When advocating for the inclusion of commercialization activities in promotion and tenure criteria, it’s critical for technology transfer offices to emphasize that this is a way to support the social relevance of the university’s research. It’s also important to mention that this shift is intended to support a greater degree of academic freedom—faculty impact is intrinsically linked to the university’s mission, and the PTIE coalition is hoping to bolster that impact, not restrict it.

In general, faculty members may not identify with language that highlights the economic or market impacts of their work, but are more likely to be excited about their research generating real-world, societal solutions. A few helpful phrases that have proven effective are below.


Culture change takes time.

Those of us excited about this new way forward are looking for quick solutions and fast results. As Rich and Almesha reminded us, though, change takes time. Tech transfer offices and engaged researchers can do their part by sharing commercialization impact metrics and success stories of faculty entrepreneurs with key administrative stakeholders. It’s important to be patient with each other, to communicate clearly, and to build trust. Carefully cultivating relationships produces faculty advocates who will then champion this cause in their departments.

It’s also important to be getting the word out about this work as much as possible. Almesha shared the wide variety of ways she incorporates the PTIE effort into her activities—in her own office, at conferences, entrepreneurship gatherings, and at meetings with other university officials from across her state. Use resources available from the PTIE coalition as well as quantitative and qualitative internal data to make your case.

We’re all in this together.

The right approach for encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in university promotion is a network systems approach to change. This means that this policy and culture shift should be adopted collectively by a large number of universities together, so as to eliminate disparities in standards across the academic community. If we do it right, we can use this interconnectedness to our advantage.

The PTIE coalition is working together to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, and Almesha shared how this was evident during last year’s PTIE summit. The summit resulted in a set of adopted recommendations for universities beginning this process—these recommendations represent a wide diversity of institutional perspectives, and the coalition is always eager to hear input from folks who are making change from the bottom up.

Rich wrapped up the session by reminding us that this work is training the next generation of entrepreneurs, and that we can imagine that generation to be as diverse and inclusive as we want it to be. I find this vision inspiring and truly feel that recognizing the value of innovation offers a significant opportunity for also meeting goals related to diversity and inclusion. I look forward to what else is in store for this movement.

If you missed the webinar, where we shared a variety of tools including step-by-step conversation guides for approaching key university stakeholders, we hope you’ll tune into the recording, available from Tech Transfer Central. Use our exclusive coupon code for $50 off the purchase price: FTT50

We’d love to hear what you thought of this session and how you might be seeing this conversation play out in your own community. Reach out to us with questions, comments, and feedback or if you’d like help implementing this type of initiative at your institution.