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Boston U “platform” strategy maximizes collisions and minimize friction for better TTO performance

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 13th, 2017

TTOs can maximize their performance by adopting a model that fosters as many connections with industry as possible while making it as effortless and trouble-free as possible to license the university’s inventions, according to the experience at Boston University. They’ve developed a commercialization “platform” model with the motto of “Maximize Collisions, Minimize Friction.”

Collisions are defined as any interactions or connections between research and industry, while friction is any negative experience that would discourage a potential licensee. BU’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) began implementing the Maximize Collisions, Minimize Friction program in early 2010, and the experience is outlined in a recent paper by Vinit Nijhawan, former OTD managing director and now a lecturer in strategy and innovation at the Questrom School of Business at BU.

OTD implemented the strategy in four primary steps:

  1. Restructuring the organization into three distinct teams:
    • Business development, which encourages faculty to submit invention disclosures and educates them about the commercialization process;
    • Intellectual property and licensing, which manages all transactions; and
    • Operations, which manages finance, administration, and human resources.
  1. Implementation of a program to maximize collisions. This included launching a marketing strategy to draw attention from industry, focusing on new ventures, forming an external advisory board to support the OTD managing director, and reviewing the entire licensed portfolio for opportunities to maximize revenue.
  2. Implementation of a program to minimize friction. BU established a working group of new venture lawyers in Boston and, with their guidance, developed the BU EZ Express Startup License to reduce the “redlining” back and forth between attorneys in start-up deals. It also created web-based electronic forms and began using electronic signatures, and at the same time developed a process for making quick decisions on the return of inventions to faculty.
  3. Established a set of OTD metrics that included faculty outreach, process improvement, and new venture spin-offs.

The new strategy is paying off, Nijhawan says. The provisional patent to utility patent conversion rate rose from 50% in 2011 to 86% in 2014, for instance. OTD is still looking at other steps to expand the platform, such as implementing an IT system that would automate TTO workflow processes and an algorithm to match faculty research with industry interests. But the experience already has demonstrated that the platform works and could be used by other TTOs, Nijhawan says.

A detailed article on BU’s strategy appears in the August issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, along with the publication’s entire 10-year archive of best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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