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Fine tune your technology briefs to avoid missed opportunities

Constructing the technology briefs used to market new innovations may seem like a simple enough task. Ideally, these are short write-ups designed to get the attention of interested suitors. But too many TTOs are failing to prioritize this basic but highly important function. As a result, promising technologies that really should have a shot at getting licensed may never get a look from potential licensees.

“When you look at these technology databases … a lot of [the technology listings] are a single paragraph, and they may be abstracts which in most cases were taken from what the inventors wrote,” observes Laura Schoppe, the president and owner of Fuentek, a technology transfer consulting firm in Apex, NC. “[The TTOs] don’t even create a market description, so the listings are focused on what a technology does or how it was created as opposed to what the technology enables for industry.”

These types of listings may also lack the key words that industry representatives are searching for, totally sabotaging a technology’s shot at getting noticed. “When the inventors do their technical abstracts, they are not using market-based words on what the technology will enable, so that is a key disconnect that I don’t think a lot of people think through,” says Schoppe. “An abstract isn’t going to cut it.”

Instead, why not devise a process that is squarely focused on the desired result — one that leverages the collective expertise of the TTO, and includes checkpoints to make sure a technology’s description is targeted appropriately and is getting the hits it deserves? Such an approach requires some legwork and ongoing care, but experts note that implementation is not nearly as arduous as some technology managers might fear.

Quentin Thomas, marketing manager in the Office of Technology Transfer at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, constructs most of the technology briefs for new innovations that come through the office. It’s a process that begins as soon as a case manager presents his or her evaluation of a technology to the licensing team. “That evaluation ends up becoming a really valuable source for writing the technology brief because a lot of the information behind the science and the market gets synthesized down a bit,” he explains. “I will take that document and use it to further synthesize it down into a one-page summary.”

Once the summary is completed, he will send it to the principal investigator (PI) for review. “Most of the time, the feedback will be very minor … but occasionally there is a lot of editing,” notes Thomas. “What often ends up happening is [the PIs] will be trying to make it jargon-heavy again, and I have to communicate to them that this is to highlight the commercial application of the technology — not necessarily the cool science behind it.”

Thomas sees this kind of mistake often when reading technology briefs. “People want to talk about how cool the technology is, but then they miss what the actual value is to industry,” he says.

A detailed article on best practices in writing technology briefs appears in the August issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and get the full article, along with the publication’s entire 11-year, online archive of proven success strategies and expert guidance for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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