Tech Transfer eNews Blog

As mission expands, Emory TTO streamlines processes and enhances productivity

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 24th, 2019

When a major university strives for more commercialization even outside usual areas like technology and medicine, the tech transfer office has to be prepared for an increased workload. Adding staff is never an easy route, so improving the work process in a way that takes some of the burden off the existing team might be the only option.

That was the situation facing the tech transfer staff at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. A new university president came on board a few years ago and launched a plan to create one Emory out of what sometimes seemed like a lot of siloed institutions that all carry the Emory name — hospitals, clinics, various schools in the university, and other institutions, says Clifford Michaels, PhD, CLP, RTT, interim executive director of the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT).

A big part of that plan involves more commercialization, some from non-traditional sources. Emory recently introduced its campuswide program called “One Emory – Engaged for Impact,” which calls on the university to “foster a culture of eminence that attracts and inspires scholars of the highest order,” “cultivate a thriving campus and a compelling student experience,” “harness imagination and discovery to address 21st century challenges,” and “unleash Emory and Atlanta’s shared future to mobilize change for the world.”

Those last two fit especially well with the Emory TTO’s efforts to promote commercialization, Michaels explains. But they also may require the TTO to take a broader approach.

“We want to focus on building innovation and integrating more into Atlanta and the surrounding community, so we saw that as the part of this initiative that really resonates with us,” he says.

The new initiative calls for Emory to make sure it is doing as much good in Atlanta as it is doing in the rest of the world. “For us in OTT, that means not giving up our broad focus with outreach to the rest of the world but also looking to engage more locally than we have in the past. That means devoting ourselves to start-ups and entrepreneurship locally, focusing more on our backyard to see how we can use what we have to support what’s going on in the Atlanta community,” Michaels says.

Emory’s OTT is already working with two resources that will facilitate meeting the One Emory goals. One is a new resource called “IdeaGate,” a streamlined way to submit invention disclosures. It was borne from the realization that the university is pushing for more innovation but not adding a lot of new OTT staff to manage it.

“We were looking for ways to improve customer service for our faculty and streamline processes, knowing it is unlikely we are going to see a giant growth in our resources over the next few years. It’s a matter of trying to streamline things, find bottlenecks and remove them,” Michaels says. “Finding the bottlenecks is one thing, but it can be harder to find a way to remove them that does not require more legwork and more human resources.”

Another new tool is ContractConnect, an online agreement portal that replaces the paper documents previously used at Emory for material transfer agreements and data use agreements. Emory has been seeing an increase of 10% to 15% each year in the number of those agreements that must be processed, so again the OTT looked for a way to do more without hiring new employees. The solution was the ContractConnect portal, which is in beta testing and will launch later this year.

“If we can both make it easier for our faculty to work with us and reduce some of the process on our end, that’s a win-win,” Michaels says. Emory also is joining other universities in using Docusign for many agreements and forms, in addition to the disclosures submitted through IdeaGate. Docusign can greatly improve efficiency in tech transfer, Michaels says.

A detailed article on Emory’s strategies for boosting efficiency appears in the April issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and get the full article, as well as access to the publication’s entire 12-year archive of back issues filled with best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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