Last week, I was talking with a tech transfer professional about our webinar to train interns on performing technology screenings. And the question came up: Why interns? Shouldn’t technology managers screen technologies? I can understand why he asked.
This Story from the Field is based on Fuentek’s real-world experience with training tech transfer interns at a major research university. The tech transfer office hired interns to begin work at the start of the fall semester. Kick-off training sessions were held in late August and early September, before academic classes ramped up. These sessions provided an overview of the tech transfer process. They also gave basic information about the stages of intellectual property (IP) management. Fuentek then provided an in-depth series of webinars over 4 weeks.
It’s tempting to think of interns as cheap/free labor. But you must invest in them before they can provide a valuable return to your technology transfer office (TTO). To get the most of your interns—and for them to get the most out of their experience in your TTO—give them the support they need to be successful. Here’s how.
Selecting the best interns for your particular technology portfolio is very important. But even the best interns will flounder if improperly trained. Fuentek (and our client) learned this lesson very well in a case in which we were asked to help set up a summer internship program.
Now is the time to get the process underway for staffing your university tech transfer office (TTO) with interns. As discussed in our white paper about TTO internship programs, summer is the best time to have interns start. This allows them to work a full 30- to 40-hour week with few (if any) other commitments. It also helps them climb the learning curve more quickly.
A few years ago, Fuentek released a paper about best practices about setting up effective internship programs for technology transfer offices (TTOs), particularly at universities. As I noted in my blog post about starting a program for TTO interns, a key recommendation is… Start early. October is too early to think about that, you say? Well, let’s back it out.
Back in November, I urged technology transfer offices (TTOs) to take caution when using interns. They can be a great help… if you structure it right. There’s a lot more to say about this topic. So, I decided to write a paper detailing the best practices for effective TTO internship programs. My recommendations are based on Fuentek’s experience with establishing TTO internship programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and several other universities.
As I monitor the technology transfer profession via industry newsletters and blogs, a frequently recurring theme is technology transfer offices seeking to keep their costs down by making use of “free” sources of service. It might be internship programs at universities, the federal government considering no-cost patent marketing services (check out our white paper on this topic), or the Texas Tech example discussed in the recent issue of Technology Transfer Tactics, which described the university’s arrangement with a consulting firm that provides a free assessment of technologies’ commercial potential.
With the right training program, students can be a huge help to TTOs both when times are tight and when budgets are flush. Back in 2001, Fuentek facilitated the implementation of a student intern program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), which the Office of Technology Management continues to use and refine to this day.