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Podcast series tells the “untold stories” behind tech transfer


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 10th, 2018

A multi-faceted team at UNeMed — the University of Nebraska Medical Center TTO — has launched a podcast series designed to take some of the mystery out of tech transfer for a broad audience while promoting the school’s research successes as well as a positive message about academic innovation and commercialization in general. The series, called “Innovation Overground,” will run episodes approximately 15 minutes long on consecutive Mondays.

“To oversimplify it, it’s basically the kind of conversation we have around the office,” says communications specialist Charlie Litton, part of the three-man team behind the series, and the only one without a science or tech transfer background. “Joe (Joe Runge, one of the podcasts’ three co-hosts and UNeMed’s business development manager) would write a blog post and I’d say, ‘What does this mean?’ We’d then have some very interesting conversations.”

“For a long time Charlie and I had been writing various blog entries and telling stories in a more general audience-friendly kind of way, but they were kind of long,” adds Runge. “Me and Tyler (UNeMed licensing associate Tyler Scherr, PhD) were very familiar with the nuts and bolts of scientific innovation; Charlie came from a journalism background. I was a little surprised by the things that amazed him. A podcast is a way to make the more interesting parts of the stories format-able into a 15-minute kind of thing.”

Using Litton in some cases as a guide for what people outside the world of university research and tech transfer would find interesting, the group came up with their story ideas. For example, in one case Litton questioned why a certain technology was not further along.

“I find the incremental steps it takes to get a big idea out there very interesting,” he says. “For example, we were talking about one innovation that involved an idea for a better medical device. But there was no way to test it, so they had to invent the test before they could create the thing. They had to create the condition in a suitable animal model.”

“Charlie found that sort of amazing,” says Runge. “Our president told us we have cool jobs, and that we needed to lean in on that.” The first episode addressed some of the “myths” surrounding tech transfer. For example, notes Litton, “one is that tech transfer ‘prints its own money’ because it brings in so much cash.”

“We really talk about how universities do really cool stuff, but that does not mean it’s easy to get value out of what they do — it’s often locked behind lots of stuff we need to do,” adds Runge. “Tyler talked about ‘de-risking’ — using university resources to develop the idea, so we’re good stewards in deploying limited development funds.”

The story ideas come through brainstorming. “We talk about what we find interesting,” says Litton. “Joe may tell me about something that came across his desk and I’ll say, ‘Hold on, that may be good for a podcast.’”

A detailed article on the podcast series appears in the September issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and get the full article, along with more than 11 years of archived best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

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