The long-term health of any tech transfer office depends in large part on building the knowledge base of students and faculty across campus — getting those who have an inkling of interest to better understand and participate in university commercialization activity. Having a formal education and training program has been a big step in the right direction for UNeMed, the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s TTO.
UNeMed’s “Tech Transfer Boot Camp” has clearly benefited the students and faculty who have participated in it, but also has also helped strengthen the TTO itself.
“It’s almost like an accelerated training program,” says communications associate Charlie Litton. “We have two interns here [in the TTO] who went through the camp and hit the ground running.” As for the students, “one interviewed at another TTO and was basically offered the position on the spot,” reports Agnes Lenagh, PhD, the licensing specialist who orchestrated the boot camp. “We feel it’s been very strong.”
“One of our mandates is to help educate the campus, and we started with an internship in the office,” adds Steven J. Schreiner, PhD, vice president and director of marketing for UNeMed, and assistant professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “We got a great response, but we can’t take that many people [for internships]. So, the question was, how could we get to more people?”
One of the options was an intense set of classes, and that’s how the boot camp originated. “You can expose them to a lot of information in a hurry,” Schreiner explains.
Litton says that word of the program was spread through “in-house advertising,” including the web site, social medial, and internal communications at the university. “We also used the postdoc association, the graduate student association, the medical school, a video display board — everywhere we could put it out,” adds Schreiner. “It went a little viral, plus we promoted it at other events we held.”
Litton adds that the boot camp did not take all comers. “There was an application process,” he explains. “That was a big factor since when dealing with graduates and PhD candidates you want to make sure they can take the time necessary from other duties. So, for example, they might have needed permission from their PIs.”
The program takes place over a month and meets for two-hour sessions twice a week, representing 14 lecture hours for participants. In addition to the lectures, students may have independent reading assignments, review archived presentations, engage in class and small group discussions, case studies, writing assignments, worksheets, and so on. A commercialization plan is due near the end of the program.
The lecture topics include:
- Intro to Program & Tech Transfer Basics
- Opportunity & IP Assessment
- Marketing Strategy
- Contract Negotiation & Licensing
- Science Writing for Marketing
- Licensing Strategies
- Project Discussion
The faculty is entirely in-house representing a variety of tech transfer areas of expertise, such as IP, licensing, or marketing. For the exercises, “we provide actual past inventions,” notes Schreiner. “We have exercises to evaluate them, look at the technology scientifically, and understand it. For IP, you have to do IP searches on those same inventions.”
Litton adds that students had to perform their own prior art searches, produce marketing materials, and essentially handle the technology from start to finish. “There was even a little bit of setting up what a licensing agreement looks like,” he adds.
A detailed article on UNeMed’s boot camp program appears in the February issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and get the full article, plus gain access to the publication’s nearly 10-year archive of best practices, case studies, and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.