Tech Transfer University Reporter
Industry-Sponsored Research Management

Unleash the power of a finely tuned intern program


By David Schwartz
Published: February 3rd, 2014

If you’re like most TTOs, increasing demands for results, yet no increase in staff, means you could face rising backlogs of invention disclosures, slower response times, missed revenue opportunities, and disgruntled faculty.  But there is a proven way to bring on aggressive and talented help without busting your budget — and process more invention files than ever while breeding the next generation of entrepreneurial scientists, lawyers and business professionals.

How? By expanding your tech transfer intern program.

Adding highly motivated students to your team, and improving the intern program’s effectiveness and usefulness to your TTO,  will not only significantly expand your office’s manpower and productivity, you’ll also provide a richer, more valuable, real-world learning experience for your student interns. 

Lesley Millar from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Jarett Rieger Esq., MBA, from Moffitt Cancer Center, have each created finely tuned and well-oiled intern programs that bring huge rewards to both the TTO and the students. In today’s blog, we’re going to highlight some of their best practices that were featured in our recent webinar: Beyond Internships: Creating a Student-Based Workforce in Your TTO (CLICK HERE for webinar details and to order).

Make interns a part of your commercialization team

  • In many offices, interns feel like outsiders and rarely interact with staff members.  Invite interns to staff meetings so they can learn about your office goals, different projects that are ongoing, and some of your recent accomplishments.
  • Make interns a part of your team-building activities, which helps them develop rapport with staff members.  Whether it’s joining staff on an off-site retreat or attending an educational webinar, these activities lend themselves to building a cohesive working relationship between staff and intern workforces.
  • Have interns give a presentation to the office after they complete an assignment so that staff can have a better appreciation for what the interns are working on and the value they represent.
  • Provide as many educational opportunities as possible to the interns. 

At Moffitt, the interns are offered the ability to attend the Investor Forum at Business of Biotech, which is an annual conference hosted by Moffitt Cancer Center. As part of the conference, Moffitt faculty start-ups present to investors, and interns are given the opportunity to observe those investor presentations. 

At UIL, interns have a chance to be selected for an AUTM student membership courtesy of the TTO.

  • Make sure that get the chance to shadow staff members. This is extremely valuable to the interns, because they get to observe interactions with faculty as well as prospective licensees.
  • If one of your technology sectors is building momentum from non-traditional sources, use an intern to test the waters! For example, UIL has hired an intern specifically to handle mobile app commercialization.

All in all, interns provide a tremendous value to the commercialization team because they are hungry and willing to put in the time. Both Moffitt and UIL have kept tabs on where their interns have landed professionally – some have become patent and corporate counsel, some of them have gone into start-up companies, some are in market research and some are in business development. Regardless of where your interns end up, their TTO experience will stay with them throughout their careers.

For more in-depth details regarding the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Moffitt Cancer Center’s intern programs, please CLICK HERE to order the archived webinar, Beyond Internships: Creating a Student-Based Workforce in Your TTO, which is available on DVD, On-Demand Video and PDF Transcript. This distance learning program covers each program’s recruitment and application processes, procedural details, and mentoring and coaching tips.

We thank Lesley Millar from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Jarett Rieger Esq., MBA, from Moffitt Cancer Center for their valuable insight. 

Upcoming webinars:

Visit www.TechTransferCentral.com for more information on how to hasten and streamline the commercialization process, as well as maximize the financial benefits of that process for your organization.

Posted under: Tech Transfer University Reporter

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