Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

Top Tips on Standard Operating Procedures for Tech Transfer Offices

Because technology transfer offices (TTOs) can greatly improve their performance and productivity by effectively using standard operating procedures (SOPs), Fuentek’s Laura Schoppe and I led a webinar on this very topic. Our insights are based on first-hand experience, best practices, and real-world examples from providing consulting services to dozens of TTOs.

We live tweeted the presentation, and today I’d like to revisit and elaborate on those tweets. You can also watch the webinar recording or take advantage of a package discount for our two webinars on Optimizing Tech Transfer Operations. (Our other webinar was on improving data integrity in your IP management database—Laura blogged about that topic here.)

“De-Risking” Technology for Commercialization

Written #SOPs that are available to everyone in the #techtransfer office can be a big help in increasing efficiency. Streamlined operations also can decrease stress and improve job satisfaction and morale. Talk about win-win!

In addition to traditional management of intellectual property (IP), the role of TTOs has expanded. Staff may not be familiar with their new responsibilities. And new staff will need to know what to do. Standardized procedures are essential and can help staff feel in control of their responsibilities.

The 1-2-3 of SOPs

#SOPs help yr office perform routine #techtransfer tasks in a *consistent* way. 1. Develop the process (who does what, timeframe, approvals, etc.). 2. Write it down. 3. Do the tasks as specified in the #SOPs

SOPs are a set of written procedures for routine tasks that should be performed consistently. In many cases, it is necessary to first develop the actual process. Once you develop standard ways of doing things, then it’s easier to carry out tasks the same way every time. Writing SOPs down makes it easier to communicate them to the people who need to (a) understand what those procedures are and (b) be held accountable for performing them correctly.

Connecting SOPs to Your IP Management Database

Make sure your #SOPs include deets for adding info to yr #techtransfer database (e.g., @WellspringWW‘s Sophia, @inteum_company‘s Inteum).

It is important that the SOPs address how to add information to the IP management database. In the tech transfer world, SOPs typically cover recording invention disclosures, patent applications, and new licenses and other agreements into the database at a minimum. But they should be developed for all routine processes for which the office is responsible.

SOPs Protect Data Integrity

Lack of #SOPs = Problems for data integrity = Compliance issues, missed deadlines, compromising the search/reporting capabilities of your #techtransfer database

IP portfolio management requires accurately knowing what inventions you own, characterizing each one, knowing its status, and knowing what next steps should be taken and by whom. All of this is captured in the IP management database, so the integrity of the data is paramount. Consistency in entering a standardized form of data and in the correct field can ensure accurate reporting. Without SOPs, data integrity will be compromised by errors or omissions. This is so important, Laura and I dedicated an entire webinar to the topic of data integrity.

Benefits of SOPs

#SOPs enhance communication. Staff know how to handle a given situation. Prevent backlogs from piling up. All this avoids being perceived as disorganized, inept, or a black hole #techtransfer office.

Database management systems have the ability to set up alerts, workflows, and/or dashboards, but they only work if you have consistency in entering data. The slide below summarizes the many benefits SOPs provide.
Consistent recordkeeping; better, easier reporting. Fewer missed deadlines and fire drills. Faster integration of new/transitioning staff. Increased transparency; consistent treatment. Provides context for staff. Easy to improve over time. Eases adaptation to reorganizations, budget cuts, etc. More efficient, higher performing organization.

Formats for SOPs

Lots of possible formats (Word template, PPT flow chart). Our fav: @msvisio. Easy to structure & manipulate, can be sophisticated, makes clickable PDFs, color/shape coding. (Of course, req. separate license & no Mac version yell)

In helping our clients develop and document SOPs, we opted for Microsoft Visio as our favored tool. As you can see below, it’s very graphical, so there is no need for the users to read a lengthy document. They can follow the basics regardless of their first language. It’s also easier to translate into other languages, since fewer words are used. Images of the database interface can be very helpful too.
This image shows an example flow chart of the various steps and decision points involved when an invention disclosure is received.

Important Reminders

Tips for #techtransfer: Don’t document what u won’t do — could cause audit issues. Involve yr staff — have those responsible for processes draft the #SOPs. Plan for iterating — schedule periodic reviews.

Documenting what you don’t—or won’t—do could lead to audit issues. Having said that, occasionally do a self-audit to ensure procedures are being followed and identify if any need updating. Get your staff on board by empowering them. Carving out time for staff to participate in the development helps them understand that SOPs are a priority. 

Digging into the Details of SOP Development

So many deets on how to develop #techtransfer #SOPs! What processes to include. Job descriptions. Making the most of IP mgt database. Access and maintenance. (Webinar recording available https://bit.ly/2YOqdIr)

Well… we can’t cover everything in a blog post. But the slide below gives a recap of what the recorded SOP webinar goes into.
Does your TTO need help developing and documenting effective SOPs? Fuentek can help. Contact us today to discuss how we can help improve your TTO’s performance and productivity.