By any measure, the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle has seen some significant successes in the realm of technology transfer. However, this past January UW embarked on a three-year plan to rebrand and relaunch its former TTO (the Center for Commercialization) as CoMotion, a collaborative, entrepreneurial hub for what the university is calling “innovation transfer.”
The transition requires a willingness to experiment, says Vikram Jandhyala, UW’s vice provost for innovation. “In some sense, we’re trying to drink our own Kool-Aid,” Jandhyala explains. “We talk about innovation as a sequence of small steps that you assess, and then you double-down on the successes and learn quickly from failure. That’s exactly what we’re doing to the office too. We are trying a few experiments so that we can chart the best course for CoMotion and the university.”
CoMotion will focus on innovation, not just commercialization, says Jandhyala. “Given that UW is exceptional across many different fields, we want to broaden that base. So we want to be the collaborative hub for where entrepreneurial thinking projects can get started and create impact. The idea is to help people think like entrepreneurs whether or not they want to create a company. Even if they’re not doing a start-up, they’re trying to solve some problem with limited resources, small teams, and incomplete information — which is the province of entrepreneurial thinking.”
CoMotion’s performance metrics are broader as well, says Jandhyala. “Like many TTOs, we used to be measured based on license revenues and start-up equity. However, for the next three years the metrics will be focused on engagement. For example: How are we engaging with people, including our own faculty and alumni? What is the quality of the engagement, and what are the outcomes? ”
Some of the experiments that CoMotion is implementing as part of its shift to “innovation transfer” include prepackaged IP options for licensees, new contract engineering offerings for industry, a new app that connects mentors with innovators, and new “just-in-time” learning tools designed to conveniently educate faculty and students in key topics around innovation and entrepreneurship. A detailed article on the re-making of UW’s tech transfer operations appears in the July issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, along with the publication’s extensive archive of TTO best practices and success strategies, CLICK HERE.