TECH TRANSFER CONSULTANCY
Data Benchmarking to Evaluate Technology Transfer Office (TTO) Performance

Data Benchmarking to Evaluate Technology Transfer Office (TTO) Performance

Over time new leadership, reorgs/reboots, rapid expansions, or new priorities can result in the need to take stock of where you are, where you are headed, and how to get there. For university Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs), a review of performance, structure, and functions—particularly in comparison to peer organizations—provides the opportunity to optimize internal operations, enhance engagement with internal and external customers (e.g., inventors and industry) and stakeholders (e.g., administration, board of directors, legislators), and revise policies and procedures to better align with current goals.

Getting to a high return on investment starts with sufficient funding and resources.Tracking data metrics helps TTOs revise policies and procedures to align with goals.

Tracking data metrics is one way to accomplish key goals as well as prepare for future opportunities to offer input on economic development, technology development, and more. AUTM’s Statistics Access for Technology Transfer (STATT) database is a great starting place for gathering critical information helpful for beginning a review. The STATT online tool is particularly useful for sifting through a myriad of data on licensing activity, startups, funding, royalties, and more to help TTOs evaluate program effectiveness.

But not all universities are equal in terms of research expenditures, staffing levels, and other metrics helpful in determining program effectiveness. For this kind of targeted comparison, we recommend that universities determine a reasonable and comparable data set to help benchmark performance against not only the AUTM pool but also a subset of peer institutions. Such peer group comparisons are much more helpful for measuring and benchmarking a host of key parameters.

Normalize Data for Meaningful Comparisons

So how to determine similarity? A key measure is research expenditures because funding drives innovation, aka invention disclosures. For a practical comparison, both funding levels and sources need to be comparable. It’s not useful to compare a university that brings in $50 million in research funding with another that scores $1 billion because the resources available do not scale linearly. Additionally, separating institutions with medical schools from those without is important since the size and number of licensing deals tend to be disparate.

Any meaningful comparison of TTO performance requires normalizing data to ensure consistent and appropriate comparisons. We look at data ratios to understand performance. For example, two universities can be considered peers—even though one has $100 million in research expenditures while the other has $200 million—but it would not be reasonable to expect them to have the same number of invention disclosures. By normalizing the number of invention disclosures and other parameters with research expenditures it’s possible to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of operations.

For example, in the above graphic, the institution is innovating and disclosing inventions at a similar rate to its peers, but it clearly has less staff in the TTO to enable commercialization. The administration may view this information with pride that the TTO is very efficient (is doing more with less). However, the analysis of the licensing data in the graphic below shows that the staff is likely overwhelmed with processing inventions and unable to dedicate time to marketing the technologies and executing licenses.

Our normalization approach allows universities to use AUTM’s STATT data to analyze performance.

Results Aid Planning and Advocacy

In addition to staffing and licensing, we look at many other parameters to identify strengths and vulnerabilities in areas such as funding, patenting, startups, and department/college participation. This kind of data analysis into past and current performances helps TTOs pinpoint where they need to augment or trim down staffing, adjust patent reimbursement licensing policies, set realistic metrics, and other actions to streamline operations. And for universities that are setting lofty research goals (think new university president that announces 2030 road map), these measures can also provide TTOs with the ammunition they need to convince administrators they require more resources if they are expected to help the institution attain new objectives—or maybe even help them understand the reality of the math 😊.

We have lots of experience helping university clients evaluate data, develop strategies, and present the findings to top administrators (sometimes an outsider needs to be the one to show what you already know). If you aren’t into delving into excel spreadsheets while quarantined at home, get in touch and we can do it for you.

Promotions and Tenure: An AUTM 2020 Webinar on Current Trends and New Initiatives

Promotions and Tenure: An AUTM 2020 Webinar on Current Trends and New Initiatives

We might not have been able to meet in person at AUTM 2020 in San Diego, but there’s no reason not to have a session to discuss an important and evolving trend for university technology transfer offices (TTOs): promotions and tenure.

Tenure and Promotion Trends: Current Initiatives to Take Commercialization into Account
Watch webinar recording here

Five years ago, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) issued a report calling on its member institutions to include technology transfer, innovation, and entrepreneurship accomplishments in the promotion and tenure (P&T) review process. At that time, APLU had identified 40 institutions that considered tech transfer activities in making P&T decisions.

In the half-decade that followed, even more universities—public and private—have included patents, industry-sponsored research, and other related activities into P&T criteria. This session will examine a range of issues associated with including tech transfer in P&T reviews:

  • Why it’s important to add tech transfer to the P&T criteria
  • How to approach adding such criteria to the P&T review process
  • How to determine the impact of incorporating tech transfer into P&T

Panelists

  • Rich Carter of Oregon State University
  • Justin Streuli of the Univ. of North Carolina–Greensboro
  • Danielle McCulloch, Fuentek (moderator)
Panelists for the webinar on Government Use of Federally Funded IP: It’s Not as Simple as You Think
(left to right) Fuentek’s Danielle McCulloch joins Rich Carter of Oregon State and Justin Streuli of the Univ. of North Carolina–Greensboro to discuss P&T trends.

And in case you missed it…

Fuentek’s Laura Schoppe and panelists presented a webinar version of their AUTM 2020 session on government use of IP—a recording is available.

Fuentek has many other webinars—as well as short webcasts and detailed white papers—with useful information for TTOs. Check out our In-Depth Insights here. And contact us to learn more about what we do and how Fuentek can help your TTO.

Government Use of IP: Webinar Offering of AUTM 2020 Panel

Government Use of IP: Webinar Offering of AUTM 2020 Panel

Although the AUTM 2020 annual meeting was cancelled, we can still share best practices, information, and thoughts. So we did a webinar version of the panel we had planned on the topic of government use of federally funded IP.

Government Use of Federally Funded IP: It’s Not as Simple as You Think
Wed., March 11, 2020 • Recording available here

The Bayh-Dole Act provides the federal government with a “nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license” to technologies developed with federal funding. But this provision is not as simple and straightforward to follow as you might think. Questions abound when your licensee’s products containing your federally funded IP are purchased by government customers:

  • Should the licensee deduct the royalty from the sales price when selling to the federal government?
  • What if the customer is a state or local government?
  • What if the customer is a foreign government that has a treaty with the United States?
  • What if the licensee’s product becomes a component within another company’s line of products that the federal government buys?
  • What about IP where the federal government appears to be the only potential customer? Should you even bother patenting it? What are the pros and cons?

This webinar answers these and many other questions as well as provide practical advice for structuring agreements involving federally funded IP. We discuss the limits and exceptions to the federal government’s rights in each scenario as well as how to think through the tech transfer office’s obligations.

Panelists

  • Dr. Zane Gernhart, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Cheryl Horst, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Dr. Michael Paulus, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Laura Schoppe, Fuentek (moderator)
Panelists for the webinar on Government Use of Federally Funded IP: It’s Not as Simple as You Think
(left to right) Fuentek’s Laura Schoppe joins Zane Gernhart and Cheryl Horst of the Univ. of Nebraska–Lincoln along with Mike Paulus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory to discuss how to think through the tech transfer office’s obligations in these less-than-straightforward situations.

And by the way…

Fuentek has many other webinars—as well as short webcasts and detailed white papers—with useful information for Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs). Check out our In-Depth Insights here. And contact us to learn more about what we do and how Fuentek can help your TTO.

Calling All Universities: Promotion and Tenure Coalition Forming

Calling All Universities: Promotion and Tenure Coalition Forming

The notion of incorporating innovation and entrepreneurship (I&E) into promotion and tenure (P&T) decisions is by no means new. But making the concept a reality has been a struggle for many universities.

Now, a diverse coalition of universities will be gathering for a September 16-18, 2020 P&T summit, thanks to funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the leadership of Professor Rich Carter from Oregon State University.

Below is my conversation with Rich as we were preparing for a P&T session.

What is the objective of this coalition?

In a nutshell, this Promotion & Tenure Innovation & Entrepreneurship (PTIE) Coalition is a rapidly growing group of universities who will leverage our collective experiences to develop a plan for inclusively recognizing I&E impact within P&T guidelines. The goal is to develop a roadmap for implementation that coalition members can take back and use at their own respective institutions, hopefully with greater success than if we had each come up with individual approaches. It is important to note that our approach is intended to support faculty that choose to maximize the impact of their work through I&E efforts to the same extent that universities already reward the traditional research endeavors of faculty. To quote a term from the 2019 National Academies Convocation on Promotion & Advancement, we seek to “broaden the bar” for P&T.

This sounds like a great way for schools to learn what others have done while providing the consistency needed to solidify new I&E standards for promotion and tenure.

Right. Fostering communication and information sharing is part of the goal. Thanks to our NSF funding, we recently conducted a survey which was sent to over 350 institutions—99 unique institutions responded via 123 representative individuals—to understand how I&E criteria are being incorporated within existing P&T guidelines across the nation. This information and case studies will be a valuable starting point for the summit discussions.

What types of institutions will participate in the summit?

We use the word “university” to refer to all institutions of higher education – from primarily undergraduate institutions [PUIs] to M1s [master’s-serving institutions] and R1s [PhD-serving institutions]. Throughout this effort, we are committed to the diverse inclusion of all voices on this topic. Our survey targeted at least two schools from each state and representation from HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities], TCUs [tribal colleges and universities], and HSIs [Hispanic-serving institutions]. We recognize that challenges and opportunities can vary by institution type, student/faculty population as well as geographic factors.

Is the idea behind having a broad spectrum of institutions represented that the recommendations coming out of the summit can be widely applicable?

Exactly. The more voices we can have in the conversation, the easier it will be to identify best practices and recognize the nuances that exist between institutions. Changing P&T guidelines is often viewed as the “third rail of academics,” as no one university wants to be out of step with other institutions. Fortunately, our networked-systems approach helps to de-risk change for an individual institution, as they can point to the PTIE effort as identifying best practices. In addition, our approach will enable a large collection of universities to adopt a similar change in a concerted fashion, as the P&T review process almost always requires input from faculty at other universities.

And what types of university representatives are you hoping to engage in the coalition?

Our goal is to have participants from within universities as well as from the stakeholder community outside the university. University representatives include administrators (e.g., provosts, vice presidents of research, vice provosts of academic affairs), faculty engaged in I&E and faculty senate leadership. The stakeholder community consists of organizations that directly engage with universities, such as national societies and funding agencies as well as research, policy, and advocacy organizations.

I think your perspective as an entrepreneurial faculty member will be particularly valuable.

We are all informed by our own experiences. My time as department chair and serving on college-level P&T committees coupled with my own I&E endeavors helped me to understand how faculty think about P&T and how to connect with them on this topic. For example, the words we use matter a lot. Just one or two words can be the difference between ruffling feathers and getting folks on board. I’m really looking forward to sharing these insights with tech transfer professionals at AUTM as well as in this larger effort.

If our readers from universities want to participate in the coalition, what’s the best way to connect with you?

I would love to talk with folks who are interested in joining the coalition. If they’re going to be at the AUTM meeting in San Diego, they should absolutely come to our session on Wednesday morning at 10:30. They are welcome to email me beforehand to set up a time to chat on Wednesday at the AUTM meeting itself. Those who aren’t at AUTM 2020 also can reach out to me via email. (Editor’s note: Because AUTM 2020 was cancelled due to coronavirus, this session was presented as a webinar.)

This is clearly something you’re very passionate about.

Yes, I have long been fascinated by the intersection between science and industry. During my time at OSU, I have seen a real opportunity to positively impact the careers of my colleagues interested in I&E, the students and researchers engaged in I&E-related research, and the overall mission of the University. I am hopeful that our coalition approach around how to incorporate I&E into P&T can have real, broad-reaching impact for higher education and the society.

I can see why you’re enthusiastic about this project. Successfully integrating technology transfer–related achievements into promotion and tenure across so many institutions would be a major accomplishment.

I appreciate that. We firmly believe that if we can more effectively align the intellectual capabilities of interested faculty with the innovation economy, then the professional careers of those faculty will be positively impacted and universities will be better positioned to accomplish their own institutional strategic goals focused around I&E. This grant has the potential to cause a fundamental shift in how faculty who are interested in pursuing I&E-focused work are incentivized and rewarded for their research endeavors.

For more information on Rich’s work, read this article and watch the webinar of this AUTM 2020 session.

Engage on P&T at AUTM 2020

Fuentek will be hosting a session on including innovation and entrepreneurship in promotion and tenure decisions at AUTM 2020. If you will be in San Diego, join Danielle and Rich along with Justin Streuli of the University of North Carolina–Greensboro on Wed., March 11th at 10:30 am in Harbor F. UPDATE: More info on the webinar offered instead of the in-person session is available here.

Looking Forward to #AUTM2020 in San Diego

Looking Forward to #AUTM2020 in San Diego

Update: Although the AUTM 2020 national meeting was cancelled, Fuentek’s two sessions were made available as webinars. See links below for more information.

Members of the Fuentek team will be joining hundreds of other technology transfer professionals from across the United States and around the world in San Diego, California, for the AUTM 2020 national meeting. Today’s post gives you a preview of two sessions we’re involved in as well as this year’s giveaways at Booth #504. And don’t miss Laura’s advice on how to get the most out of AUTM 2020.

(left to right) Fuentek’s Danielle McCulloch, Becky Stoughton, and Laura Schoppe will be at Booth #504 at AUTM 2020 along with Fuentek consultant Cathy Innes.

Tenure and Promotion Trends: Current Initiatives to Take Commercialization Into Account
Presented as an AUTM Webinar • More info here

Five years ago, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) issued a report calling on its member institutions to include technology transfer, innovation, and entrepreneurship accomplishments in the promotion and tenure (P&T) review process. At that time, APLU had identified 40 institutions that considered tech transfer activities in making P&T decisions. In the half-decade that followed, even more universities — public and private — have included patents, industry-sponsored research, and other related activities into P&T criteria. This session will examine a range of issues associated with including tech transfer in P&T reviews:

  • Why it’s important to add tech transfer to the P&T criteria
  • How to approach adding such criteria to the P&T review process
  • How to determine the impact of incorporating tech transfer into P&T

If you’d like to prepare a little in advance, check out this post about the regional meeting session on this topic as well as this Q&A post about the Promotion & Tenure Innovation & Entrepreneurship (PTIE) Coalition.

(left to right) Fuentek’s Danielle McCulloch joins Rich Carter of Oregon State and Justin Streuli of the Univ. of North Carolina–Greensboro to discuss P&T trends.

Strategies for Commercializing IP When the Customer Is the U.S. Federal Government
Presented as a Fuentek Webinar • More info here

The Bayh-Dole Act provides the federal government with a “nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license” to technologies developed with federal funding. But this provision is not as simple and straightforward to follow as you might think. Questions abound when your licensee’s products containing your federally funded IP are purchased by government customers:

  • Should the licensee deduct the royalty from the sales price when selling to the federal government?
  • What if the customer is a state or local government?
  • What if the customer is a foreign government that has a treaty with the United States?
  • What if the licensee’s product becomes a component within another company’s line of products that the federal government buys?
  • What about IP where the federal government appears to be the only potential customer? Should you even bother patenting it? What are the pros and cons?

This session will answer these and many other questions as well as and provide practical advice for structuring agreements involving federally funded IP. We’ll discuss the limits and exceptions to the federal government’s rights in each scenario as well as how to think through the tech transfer office’s obligations.

(left to right) Fuentek’s Laura Schoppe joins Zane Gernhart and Cheryl Horst of the Univ. of Nebraska–Lincoln along with Mike Paulus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory to discuss how to think through the tech transfer office’s obligations in these less-than-straightforward situations.

Visit Fuentek at Exhibit Hall Booth #504

We encourage all technology transfer professionals—whether from a university, corporation, research institute, or government lab—to stop by the Fuentek booth sometime when the Exhibit Hall is open. Not only can you talk about your TTO’s challenges  and how Fuentek can help, but we also have two excellent handouts that you won’t want to pass up:

Remember: The Exhibit Hall closes for good at 4pm on Tuesday, so don’t wait until the last day of the conference to visit Booth #504. Or feel free to use AUTM Connect to schedule a time with one of the folks from Fuentek who will be in San Diego: Laura Schoppe, Cathy Innes, Danielle McCulloch, and Becky Stoughton.

Safe travels!