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10 signs that a university tech transfer internship program isn’t working

In her recent blog post, Fuentek consultant Danielle McCulloch tips off universities to ten signs that their tech transfer student internship program may need some retooling.

  1. 90% of your portfolio is life sciences, but 90% of your interns are electrical and mechanical engineers. “Be sure,” writes McCulloch, “to match interns’ skills with the technologies in your portfolio to ensure technical competence.”
  2. Your key hiring criterion is, “Can you calculate this equation?” While it’s important for interns to have a science and technology background, it is also important that they have business sense. Try to have a variety of backgrounds in your intern pool.
  3. “You’re hired. Come in the day after Labor Day.” McCulloch recommends starting interns during the summer, which means you should start recruiting in January, training in April and starting in May or June.
  4. “We think interning with us will be a great way to spend the next couple months while you wrap up your PhD.” Pick students who still need to complete at least one full academic year before graduating so that they can provide value throughout the school year.
  5. “Your starting salary is… nothing.” McCulloch doesn’t recommend an internship that only offers course credits to students. “However,” she writes, “an unpaid internship program can be successful if the program provides a great deal of other value to participating students.”
  6. “Chris is a great intern. My copies never have coffee spills on them!” Don’t just give interns busy work. That would only waste the opportunity for TTOs to benefit in productivity. Instead, have them start by screening technologies for market fit.
  7. “Hi, I’m an intern with the university’s TTO. Would you like to license our newest widget?” At the same time, interns shouldn’t have too much responsibility — market analysis is the perfect role for many interns, involving real and necessary work but not critical or sensitive work that’s best left to experienced staff.
  8. “Here are 50 technologies for you to screen this summer. Let me know when you’re done with the first half.” Whatever you do assign for the interns, make sure they are properly trained on the task.
  9. “Riley’s screening reports are two pages long. Jamie’s are 20 pages long. No problem!” Adopt a formal, well-defined tech screening process. This leads to a more consistent product and allows TTOs to monitor intern output without having to retrain too much.
  10. “This internship program is going to save this office so much money!” “Given the amount of training and mentoring needed, cost savings will not be significant,” says McCulloch. Still, TTOs get big benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency.

 “Some of the leaders in our industry started as TTO interns,” writes McCulloch. “Even if your interns don’t become tech transfer professionals, they will have a greater understanding of the important role of tech transfer in today’s world. And that’s a good thing.”

Source: Fuentek

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