Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

Worth Reading: February 2013

Online reading of technology transfer newsToday we have another installment of technology transfer-related items that I think are worth reading. Perhaps you’ll want to read them during your travels to San Antonio for the AUTM® annual meeting. Check them out during your airport layovers or on the plane, depending on your on-board wifi access. Or, if you’re really the plan-ahead type, download these items before takeoff (except for the music video listed at the end – gotta be online for that).

It’s Time for Business Students to Get an IP Education: This one is good if you have a particularly long layover. It ain’t short, but it identifies a big problem: Until the subject of intellectual property (IP) is taught in business schools, widespread ignorance of this important aspect of innovation will continue. (You might recall that Danielle blogged about a related issue last month in her post, “Advice for Heightening Inventors’ IP Awareness.”) In this piece, originally in Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) and reposted by the Licensing Executives Society, author Bill Elkington raises several questions concerning the best way to address this problem.

I agree that more business managers and leaders need to understand the basics of innovation, and business schools are a good place for this to happen. From what I have seen, there is probably a smattering of IP content in MBA programs throughout the country but no real consistency. And I’m not referring to business school students taking a law class on IP, which is neither necessary nor appealing for most students.

Here in the Triangle, the MBA programs of the big three schools — Duke, N.C. State University, and UNC at Chapel Hill — have had classes at one time or another on how to commercialize technology. When I taught the commercialization class at UNC, the focus I chose was two-fold: (1) protecting the IP is part of the innovation process for many business models and (2) no matter what job you get, you will need to make decisions on very limited information, and the tech transfer evaluation process teaches you how to do that. I think the second one resonated with students more than the first. Then again, that was quite a few years ago, and now with all the coverage on infringement and trolls, there would probably be more interest in the IP topic. In fact, you see evidence of this in N.C. State’s MBA program, which offers a focus in innovation management as well as in entrepreneurship and technology commercialization.

But MBA programs don’t necessarily have to go whole hog (N.C. pun intended). Having the institution’s tech transfer office or a local professional teach one or two sessions as part of a class would be a good start and would not disrupt the set curriculum of an MBA program. Then, as the business schools and students see value, maybe IP and tech transfer topics can become greater parts of the standard curriculum.

And speaking of educating innovators, check out the blog post “What You Need To Know About Royalty Distribution” published by UNeMed, the tech transfer program for the University of Nebraska Medical Center. This is a great example of how a TTO can help researchers understand the technology commercialization process, increasing the frequency and quality of their participation.

Finding Innovation in the Rough: This latest Inc.com post from Julie Goonewardene of the University of Kansas’s Center for Technology Commercialization provides some useful tips to companies trying to navigate universities as they search for new technologies. It’s also worthwhile reading for TTOs because it prompts you to view yourself from the company’s perspective. Consider her five tips and ask yourself:

  • Focus: Are your institution’s strongest areas of research featured on your Web site? Does your office publicize technology and research opportunities via a variety of channels? (If not, check out these insights.)
  • Do your homework: Goonewardene urges companies to look at university tech transfer office Web sites, which “provide basic info. Then google the researchers you’d particularly like to connect with.” Does your TTO’s Web site save them a step by providing relevant researcher information? (Read more about creating effective TTO Web sites.)
  • Reach out: She also says the TTOs “know what’s going on in their institutions, and more specifically, in the university’s research labs. Good universities won’t get in the way of interactions between faculty researchers and business/entrepreneurs. Some will even broker the introductions.” Have you cultivated the relationships with your faculty and researcher groups to do so? (If not, check out these insights.)
  • Reciprocate: Are you providing information about what you’re hoping to receive (besides money) from your industry partners? (Our collaborative R&D insights may be useful.)
  • Work it: Goonewardene warns that “Technology isn’t going to simply fall into your lap.” And neither is a deal. Are you ready to work it? (These insights on deal making can help. So can Fuentek.)

Taking Directions from the Lost: I never get tired of reading Joe Allen’s telling-it-like-it-is commentary when it comes to technology transfer policy — thanks, IPWatchDog.com for posting it!  Noticing that the Brookings Institution’s report Building an Innovation-Based Economy lists no leaders backing its recommendations for increasing commercialization and technology transfer, Joe points out that the report’s authors provide no evidence to back up their claims that Bayh-Dole may have had an “inflationary effect on the whole healthcare system.” Instead, he says, one should give greater attention to the recommendations in Transformation and Opportunity: The Future of the U.S. Research Enterprise, prepared by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The PCAST report along with Joe’s commentary are worth reading.

Evolving Partnerships: Academia, Pharma, and Venture Groups Adapt to Challenging Times: We’ve seen more and more lately about universities and companies forming collaborative partnerships in the field of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. And this article in Cell Stem Cell profiles even more of these collaborations, including Pfizer’s partnerships with Harvard Medical School and the University of California–San Diego and Johnson & Johnson’s forthcoming innovation centers in several cities around the world. I particularly appreciated the observation by Emory University‘s Todd Sherer that “Many of the models we’re seeing have been done in the past, but not necessarily pursued wholesale by everyone in the industry. What’s clear is that there’s no one particular model—we may never have one particular model!”

State of the Union Hits T2-Adjacent Themes: Thanks to FLC’s NewsLink for posting links to technology transfer–related items in President Obama’s February 12th address, including his massive push for federal R&D and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (i.e., 3-D printing).

Finally, when you need a break and a little music in your life, check out the video of astronaut Chris Hadfield and the Barenaked Ladies (along with Wexford Collegiate’s Gleeks) performing I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing). Love it!

What are you reading, watching, or listening to, tech transfer? Post a comment below or send me a private message.


Worth Reading