Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

Knowledge Transfer Metrics: It’s Not That Simple

2011-07-14_kid-in-foil-hats_iStock_000016193676LargeI’m back with another Metrics Monday post! Although we tend to focus on technology transfer here on the Fuentek blog, our industry is broader than that. One aspect I was asked about recently is knowledge transfer. Specifically, I was asked:

Can you suggest a tool to measure/assess quantity and quality of knowledge transfer?

This is a complex question since knowledge transfer is more qualitative than quantitative, but metrics gathering is an inherently quantitative exercise. However, there are some quantitative measures that provide a sense of knowledge transfer.

In fact, the person who asked me the question suggested several such metrics, including networks, continuing professional development, consultancy, collaborative research, contract research, licensing, spin-outs, and teaching.

NDA = nondisclosure agreement
MTA = material transfer agreement
SRA = sponsored research agreement
SUA = software usage agreement
CRADA = cooperative research and development agreement
SAA = Space Act Agreements (a NASA-specific partnering mechanism)

Indeed, many of the metrics often tracked for technology transfer also relate to knowledge transfer. For example, our clients frequently track:

  • Number of agreements (NDAs, MTAs, SRAs, SUAs, CRADAs/SAAs)
  • Value of these agreements (reimbursements, royalty income, etc.)
  • Number of products and revenue generated from product sales (through licensing)
  • Number of presentations on technologies and number of attendees at technology transfer events
  • Number of publications and conference presentations (Note: To focus on measuring knowledge transfer, obtain statistics on distribution, such as how many people downloaded the paper or listened to the talk [i.e., received the information], what industry they are in, and what role they represent [e.g., engineering design, decision maker, etc.].)

The Association of University Technology Managers® (AUTM®) annual licensing survey gathers metrics relevant for knowledge transfer beyond agreement types and their values, including:

  • Research expenditures
  • Number of invention disclosures
  • Number of patent applications filed and patents issued (Note: Citation analysis is a knowledge transfer reference point too.)

In comparing these metrics to those of other organizations, be sure to look at the ratios rather than the raw values. Using ratios for things like research expenditures, staff size, and invention disclosures help normalize data across institutions. (This is how Fuentek does it as part of analyzing the effectiveness of a TTO’s operations.)

Of course, measuring the alphabet soup of agreements and licensing deals has its limits. These metrics don’t capture how much information is involved nor the value of that knowledge. (You could argue that a license does value the intellectual property, including knowledge, being transferred, but it is a far-from-ideal metric for knowledge transfer.)

Nevertheless, a variety of metrics are used to try to quantify a variety of tech transfer–related activities, including knowledge transfer. Below are a few downloadable examples that might serve as useful resources:

How does your TTO track knowledge transfer? Post a comment below or send me a private message.