Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

Worth Reading in Tech Transfer: External Advisory Panels, Creating Economic Growth, Battling Bayh-Dole Critics, Open Innovation, and a Fun History on the Space Race

Wonder what we’re reading as we wait for Congress to pass a budget? Read on.

There were two articles in the September 2013 issue of Technology Transfer Tactics newsletter (available with a subscription from Tech Transfer Central) that elaborated on a blog post we ran here concerning the use of panels of external experts in evaluating technologies:

Elsewhere in Michigan was a unique variation on the idea, as described in “U-Michigan Alum Fills ‘Innovation Evangelist’ Role on Campus.” I think of this scenario as an ultra-concentrated approach to expert panels. It’s a pretty unusual set of circumstances, but if another university found itself in this position they would be wise to follow it. Any valuable information, insights, or guidance that can be obtained for free is… well, priceless.

Survey: Innovative U.Va. Ventures Create Economic Growth deserves not only a read but also a high five. Not only were the University of Virginia TTO‘s results impressive, but the outreach they did to obtain the metrics was very good. Other TTOs should consider what they might learn if they conducted their own survey. As we’ve blogged about here before, success stories are a key tool for communicating the TTO’s value beyond just the numbers. Plus, including patent info in your success stories can help combat the bad reputation patents have been getting these days. Same goes for criticism of the Bayh-Dole Act. Along those lines, be sure to see our recent post about the AUTM® “Put a Face on It” initiative. And speaking of Bayh-Dole…

University Innovation and Bayh-Dole: Beyond the Patent-License Paradigm by the University of Colorado’s interim associate VP for technology transfer Kate Tallman is an excellent commentary on the multitude of issues at play. She rightly points out that “only a narrow subset of university innovation is patented and licensed to industry… innovation is also transferred through publications, graduating students, consulting agreements and scientific exchanges.” Furthermore, she notes that much of the current debate (sparked by the recent NEJM commentary) is “informed primarily by the biomedical context, where patents are a necessary economic protection for industry partners investing in a lengthy clinical approval process. However, universities manage a multitude of technologies that could attract funding to launch a product without the protection of a patent – for instance, software products.”

Tallman concludes with, “Bayh-Dole does not necessarily need to be revisited, but its supporters should not rely solely on their bioscience technology transfer results to justify their support of the act. Universities should begin to quantify and promote their activities in support all forms of innovation transfer, not just their patent license success stories.”

It’s a good article, and I agree with much of what she says. Turning to another topic…

3 Questions and Good Resources on Collaboration, Open Innovation for Universities brings up many of the key issues for universities getting involved in open innovation (OI). If your university is still struggling to understand its role in OI — where the institution is more often providing (rather than needing) a solution — think of it as part of tech transfer and sponsored research. When it comes to OI, it is in your best interest to understand industries’ needs (do some research and analysis) and then work to fulfill those needs by matching them with your available technologies (licensing out) or capabilities (sponsored research).

Regarding the research/analysis portion of the process, keep in mind that online crowdsourcing platforms are an excellent way to understand industry needs and find possible partnerships. (The drawbacks I see with crowdsourcing do not apply to universities.) If your university finds a match, I encourage you to contact the company directly rather than merely posting a possible solution online. This increases your chances of not only creating a long-term relationship (licensing today, collaborative research tomorrow) but also getting the company’s attention while they’re weeding through many other crowdsourced solutions. Unlike many of the others posting solutions on these sites, you have the distinct advantage of understanding the licensing process and owning the IP in your solution, making you an extra-attractive OI partner.

And just for fun…

Who Won the Space Race? is a 5-minute TED-Ed video that describes the history — and benefits — of the space race. It does a nice job of recapping the issues at the time, and it’s a nice reminder that the answer to this question is: “We all did!”

What are your favorite reads or videos? Post a comment below or send me a private message.


Worth Reading