Tech Transfer eNews Blog
Technology Transfer Tactics sample issue

External reviews pull no punches, help TTOs drive improvements


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

The idea of giving outsiders free rein to put your TTO under a microscope would strike many tech transfer managers as offputting, to the say the least, but that is exactly what some university administrations are doing. The goals of such an exercise typically vary, with some leaders looking for fresh perspective or validation while others want to shake up the status quo. And while the process of going through such a thorough, whole body scan could hardly be characterized as pleasant, many veterans of such examinations acknowledge that the often sobering results can nonetheless push their commercialization efforts forward with new thinking and, in some cases, a vastly expanded mission.

One of the latest universities to go down this road is the University of Washington in Seattle. The president of the university, Michael Young, tasked an “advisory committee on commercialization” to consider how the university could nurture an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” across the campus and do a better job of engaging with the business community in the region.

The advisory committee’s resulting report, first issued in October of 2013, is certainly blunt, faulting UW for having high licensing transaction costs, a bureaucracy that is too burdensome for potential licensees, and a culture that actually discourages entrepreneurship in some academic sectors. However, as is typical of such assessments, the report also suggests a roadmap for how the university can transform to meet the needs of a changing economic landscape.

Further, while it is still too early gauge the impact of this process on UW’s commercialization efforts, the advisory committee-driven approach may offer lessons to other universities that are hungry for new ideas on how to optimally leverage their innovative capabilities.

While two faculty members served on the president’s advisory committee at UW, it was comprised primarily of people outside of the university world including two entrepreneurs, three venture capitalists, and an attorney specializing in corporate finance and start-ups. This is a departure from more traditional internal review processes that rely heavily on benchmarking and perhaps some input from colleagues who serve in other technology transfer operations. However, in this case UW’s president was clearly attempting to get a larger sense of how the university interacts with the community, and what changes need to be made to ensure that the university’s intellectual output is addressing community needs — including industry partners.

“We are pretty well-versed in how other TTOs are run, but what we were really trying to see – and this was coming from the [university] president — was how do we make the next step into innovation, how do we innovate as a university, so we were really looking more at our constituents and people who really matter to us as a university,” observes Vikram Jandhyala, UW’s vice provost for innovation, a new position that was created at the suggestion of the advisory committee. “We really wanted to see whether we were [providing] the right service for the Seattle and Washington [State] area, and also on a broader scale.”

In broad terms, the advisory committee’s report was all about positioning the university for the next iteration of technology transfer, says Jandhyala. “The first version of tech transfer was looking at licensing, [and] then we wanted to be more active and so we moved to a stage of helping start-ups come out of the university,” he explains. Now the challenge involves coming up with a way to create a cultural shift in both students and faculty so that the university is really managing its intellectual resources in a way that addresses both social and technical challenges, notes Jandhyala. “Universities are changing a lot of their models in terms of how they attract students, how they measure impact, and how they work with their community, so the timing was right to figure out whether we were doing our best in terms of how we get our ideas out into the public domain,” he says. A detailed article on using external assessments to drive improvements in commercialization appears in the November issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, along with the publication’s eight-year archive (free to subscribers) of tech transfer success strategies and best practices, CLICK HERE

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5 founder-friendly terms that give companies an upper hand in deals with investors


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

In their recent VentureBeat article, start-up advisors Caine Moss and Emma Mann-Meginniss examine the more founder-friendly terms that have recently been popping up in financing deals. “For many start-ups, the hot venture capital and exit markets mean an increase in deal leverage when negotiating with venture investors,” say the authors. “As a result, founder-favorable terms are increasingly a part of formation and financing documents where they wouldn’t have been just a year or two ago.” Here are a few examples of those terms and what they mean: continue reading »

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Lean Marketing & Digital Media Strategies for University Start-Ups


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

Start-ups coming out of universities often have a distinct disadvantage — and it can be fatal. Despite having incredible technology and brilliant researchers behind them, one core competency is very often sorely lacking: marketing. And no matter how outstanding the technology, if no one knows about it or it is cloaked in the verbiage of academics, its chances of making it in the unforgiving commercial world are slim.

By shoring up this neglected but sorely needed area of spinout management, your companies will drastically improve their ability to attract the investors, partners and customers they need. Even with the typical shortage of cash most start-ups must deal with, you need to get the word out – and you can, without a big cash commitment. To show you how, Technology Transfer Tactics’ Distance Learning Division is producing this how-to webinar – scheduled for January 6, 2015 — packed with actionable takeaways and led by two national experts in start-up company creation, product sales and marketing: Lean Marketing & Digital Media Strategies for University Start-Ups. Our faculty will teach you and your team how to inject lean methodology into marketing plans and strategies — so your university’s start-ups can get vital exposure without breaking the bank. For complete details and to register, CLICK HERE.

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New bill would create “microlabs” to give access to national labs for tech transfer


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has introduced a bill to accelerate tech transfer by giving universities, local government, business owners and community leaders more access to the country’s 17 national labs through off-site “microlabs.”

The microlabs would feature equipment, facilities and personnel from U.S. national labs, which otherwise can be difficult to access because of security measures, and would offer these resources to the greater community to help bring more federally funded technologies from lab to market.

“If we are going to realize the true potential of technology transfer, our national labs must be able to collaborate effectively with business, entrepreneurs, investors and research universities,” says Heinrich. “Obviously we can’t tear down the lab fences and security precautions that have limited these interactions, but we can and should create spaces in the communities where our labs reside that facilitate collaboration and commercialization.

“My legislation,” he adds, “will help to build a front door, literally and figuratively, where the community can interact directly with the scientists and engineers who are our laboratory’s greatest assets. This will eliminate many of the barriers that have historically limited commercial technology transfer and incentivize the private sector jobs that result from successful commercialization projects.”

According to a recent Brookings Institution report, “microlabs would help overcome both the problem that most labs are located outside of major metropolitan areas, and the fact that most lab research occurs ‘behind the fence’ of main campuses. These microlabs could take the form of additional joint research institutes or new facilities that allow access to lab expertise for untapped regional economic clusters.” Heinrich’s proposed law, The Microlab Technology Commercialization Act of 2014, would authorize federal funding to help cover the national labs’ share of establishing the off-site microlabs.

Source: National Journal

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Sydney’s U of Technology launches student “Hatchery”


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) is launching the Hatchery, a center for undergrads and research students to learn how to start their own businesses. The Hatchery will help students analyze markets, build prototypes, create business plans, protect intellectual property and other crucial steps toward launching a startup. continue reading »

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Two U of Maryland System schools become investors in their own start-ups


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

Two University of Maryland (UM) System schools are beginning to invest in start-ups formed around university technologies – the latest in a recent surge in university VC-type activity. continue reading »

VC/University Partnerships: Build a Powerful Integrated Funding Vehicle ~ Learn about the partnership between the University of Florida and Osage University Partners and apply their best practices to your partnering efforts. Click here to order >>

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Tel Aviv University’s tech transfer arm raises $23.5 million to invest in university start-ups


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

Like the University of Maryland, Ramot — the tech transfer arm of Tel Aviv University — is taking on a venture capital role after having raised a $23.5 million fund to invest in faculty-developed technologies. continue reading »

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Reference offers comprehensive coverage of post-grant patent practice


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

Post-Grant Patent Practice is an invaluable reference guiding patent and IP professionals on all USPTO post-issuance procedures, which are becoming much more common under the AIA and pose a new threat to university patents.

Written by four former USPTO Administrative Patent Judges, this 870-page resource captures the full nuance of post-grant practice and procedures. Post-grant practice has expanded significantly due to the availability of inter partes proceedings. Post-Grant Patent Practice analyzes the procedures introduced by the AIA — both in text and in charts — explaining them from pre-filing considerations through appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, or to a district court and then the Federal Circuit.

This comprehensive treatment of post-grant practice serves as an invaluable reference for both patent practitioners appearing before the USPTO and patent litigators. For more details and to order, CLICK HERE >>

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U Arizona professor develops app to alleviate urban traffic woes


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

A University of Arizona (UA) professor has developed a mobile app to improve the flow of transportation in congested cities. Created by Yi-Chang Chiu, associate professor of civil engineering at UA, the Metropia app connects commuters, businesses, employers and governmental agencies to improve metro mobility, using advanced traffic prediction and vehicle-routing technology. Users can read the app’s information to adjust their traditional routes and lines, alleviating a city’s overall traffic congestion in the process. Those who make smarter and safer travel decisions earn rewards provided by community and business partners in participating cities. continue reading »

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IBM teams with ASU scientists to develop prototype DNA reader


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

A team of scientists from Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute and IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center have developed a prototype DNA reader that could one day bring whole genome profiling to the masses. continue reading »

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Comings and Goings


By David Schwartz
Published: November 26th, 2014

The University of Hawaii at Mānoa has named a new interim director for its Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development (OTTED). William K. Richardson will assume the new role Dec. 1. “It’s a very exciting time to be at the University of Hawaii to help grow the commercialization area of its research arm,” Richardson said. “I look forward to sharing my passion, knowledge and experience in entrepreneurship to help UH faculty to become successful entrepreneurs themselves.” Richardson, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur, founded and built venture funds that invested in 17 companies based in Hawaii. Source: kaleo.org

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U of Minnesota files patent infringement lawsuits against Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint


By David Schwartz
Published: November 19th, 2014

The University of Minnesota (UMN) recently filed a batch of patent infringement lawsuits against four of the world’s largest cell phone carriers.

UMN is claiming one of its professors, Georgios Giannakis, invented key technology behind the LTE protocol, a standard for high-speed wireless communication that is currently being used by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint to connect mobile phones.

According to the university, Giannakis did work “that improves reliability and speed” on LTE networks. The lawsuits accuse Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint of violating U.S. Patent Numbers 7,251,768; RE45,230; 8,588,317; 8,7717,175; and 8,774,309. Each lawsuit points out that UMN reaps $40 million in patent licenses each year, and that “the University reinvests its royalty revenues in its mission of serving the people of the State of Minnesota.”

The lawsuit is relatively unusual among universities, and it has drawn some criticism. Some accuse universities like UMN of using their status as powerful “non-practicing entities” to engage in litigation strategies similar to those of patent trolls.

The UMN action and other recent university suits are taking place against the background of a heated argument over a record-setting patent win by Carnegie Mellon University. In 2012, CMU won a $1.17 billion verdict against Marvell Semiconductor, and that figure has grown to $1.54 billion. The case is now on appeal. Last month, the University of Minnesota and several other universities filed a brief (PDF) supporting Carnegie Mellon’s landmark win.

Eric Kaler, president of UMN, comments, “Every day, our faculty is developing life-changing inventions and cures for the common good. That is what a great research university does. We must vigorously protect our faculty, those discoveries, and the overall interests of our university.” The defendant companies haven’t publicly commented on the UMN suits.

Source: Ars Technica

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