Tech Transfer eNews Blog

New Creighton TTO director outlines his formula for success


By Jason Norris
Published: July 24th, 2013

What does it take to develop a successful TTO, or dramatically improve an existing one? Lee Taylor, JD, LLM, MBA, who recently assumed the position of TTO director at Creighton University, has brought with him a number of creative ideas that he believes will lay a strong foundation for an effective tech transfer operation. The early returns indicate he’s on the right track; in previous years the university had not exceeded 18 disclosures, but this year Taylor says the office is on track to do 40 to 50.

Why is a different approach required? “Most TTOs have fewer than 10 people, less than $1 million and have a mission to commercialize technology,” he notes. “They are [in essence] start-ups — and could mimic many of the characteristics of a start-up — but they don’t. Tech transfer is often practiced as if it was black and white, but it is technicolor.”

He cites two key inspirations for his approach. “One theoretical underpinning is called ‘setting the table,’ developed by Harvard researcher Josh Lerner,’” he says, noting that it is an alternative to “picking winners.” The other is “Dogs and Demons,” by Alex Kerr. “[Kerr] suggests you do the simple and logical before you do the expensive and fantastic,” Taylor explains.

Here’s Taylor’s 10-point outline to lay a framework for a high-functioning TTO:

  1. Attend academic lectures.
  2. Interact with every researcher.
  3. Set up an electronic filing system (EFS).
  4. Require no NDAs.
  5. Adopt The Mahele Method of licensing, which Taylor developed while in his previous position at The University of Hawaii.
  6. Only prosecute patents in the U.S.
  7. Stress patent issuance.
  8. Spend 10% to 15% of your budget on marketing.
  9. Pick your own service providers.
  10. Use a limited number of patent law firms.

Taylor says he instituted several major changes in his office in the first five weeks, among them a new approach to increasing disclosures. “You always want to increase disclosures, and it is incredibly simple to get more,” he asserts. Attending lectures, he says, is “massively important” because you show interest in what your faculty members are doing. “It costs me no money, but it creates enormous good will,” says Taylor. For example, every Tuesday at noon a microbiology lecture is presented. His regular attendance has so far yielded five disclosures.

Taylor also says he interacts with every single researcher — not just those who have disclosed inventions. “Even if they’ve never come to us, I go to the professors and work with them to develop market research on their field of interest,” he explains, noting that he also helps faculty identify potential research sponsors. “Privately sponsored research is the great unsung hero of tech transfer,” he asserts, “and it’s especially needful in health science with NIH sequestration in effect.” A detailed article on Taylor’s success strategies appears in the June issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, as well as our entire archive of back issues and online tech transfer resource center, CLICK HERE.

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