Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

Top 10 Hints Your Tech Transfer Internship Program Is in Trouble

Ah, fall! University students return to campus. And technology transfer offices (TTOs) have the opportunity to establish–or enhance–their internship program.

Longtime readers of the Fuentek blog know that we have a lot of experience setting up new TTO internship programs. From planning the program to selecting the candidates to training and mentoring the interns, we’ve done it all. We even published a white paper about it.

So today, while I’m feeling slightly nostalgic for David Letterman, I’d like to have a little fun while I share Fuentek insights about tech transfer internship programs.

Top 10 Hints Your Tech Transfer Internship Program Is in Trouble

From the home office in Cary, North Carolina

10. 90% of your portfolio is life sciences. 90% of your interns are electrical and mechanical engineers.

Be sure to match interns’ skills with the technologies in your portfolio to ensure technical competence.

9. Your key hiring criterion is, “Can you calculate this equation?”

You want more than just technical competence. Look for business experience along with technical insights or consider teams of interns with varied skill sets. Here’s some more advice about hiring an effective team of interns.

8. “You’re hired. Come in the day after Labor Day.”

We recommend starting interns in the summer. This means you’ll be recruiting in January, training in April/May, and starting in May/June. So it’s good to start planning in the fall for a summer start.

7. “We think interning with us will be a great way to spend the next couple of months while you wrap up your Ph.D.”

Select students who will be working toward their degrees at least one more full academic year, so they can provide value throughout the school year. And consider the tale of the distracted intern in this post.

6. “Your starting salary is… nothing.”

As Laura Schoppe blogged about previously, we generally do not recommend setting up a TTO internship program that relies on credit. However, an unpaid internship program can be successful if the program provides a great deal of other value to participating students. Emory University has had good experience with its internship program, which was  carefully designed to offset the lack of salary.

5. “Chris is a great intern. My copies never have coffee spills on them!”

Giving interns busy-work will cost the TTO an opportunity to have the office really benefit in terms of productivity. We recommend having them screen technologies for market fit.

4. “Hi, I’m an intern with the university’s TTO. Would you like to license our newest widget?”

But don’t give them too much responsibility. Technology screenings are the perfect job for interns.

3. “Here are 50 technologies for you to screen this summer. Let me know when you’re done with the first half.”

Solid training and ongoing mentoring are both critical, as this example demonstrates.


2. Riley’s screening reports are 2 pages long. Jamie’s are 20 pages log. “No problem!”

Having a formal, well-defined technology screening process results in a consistent product and makes it easier for TTOs to monitor intern output without having to do a lot of retraining. Consider these insights about how to support tech transfer interns.

1. “This internship program is going to save this office SO much money!”

Given the amount of training and mentoring needed, cost savings will not be significant. But TTOs do get big benefits in terms of:

  • Productivity – Interns help avoid technology backlogs
  • Efficiency – Technology managers have more time to focus on prioritizing, marketing, negotiating, etc.

And the technology transfer community also benefits from the training these interns receive. Some of the leaders in our industry started as TTO interns.

Even if your interns don’t become tech transfer professionals. But they will have a greater understanding of the important role of tech transfer in today’s world. And that’s a good thing.


Contact us today to discuss how Fuentek can help your TTO establish a new internship program or improve the one you have.