Tech Transfer eNews Blog

TTOs adjusting to shrinking budgets and hiring freezes

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: July 1st, 2020

A detailed article on the coronavirus budget impact for university TTOs — with additional reports from Cornell University, University of Utah, Johns Hopkins University, and Washington University of St. Louis – appears in the June issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. For subscription information, click here.

Throughout the country universities are cutting budgets, resulting in hiring freezes, furloughs, and stalled plans for expansion. TTOs are tightening their belts, but so far, they are experiencing more of a bump in the road than a full-blown train wreck. Long-term, it appears that university-mission-based goals will remain intact. Technology Transfer Tactics collected these reports from universities across the U.S.

Lisa Lorenzen, assistant vice chancellor for technology advancement at the University of Missouri, notes that her university has announced a 15% across-the-board budget cut. Since most of her budget goes toward salaries, this budget reduction has forced her to stop the hiring process for two vacant positions that she had expected to finalize in the coming year.

The good news is that, so far, there are no furloughs among her staff of nine. She attributes this to the fact that she was already down two employees when the budget cuts hit. “We’re going to be able to hopefully absorb all of our cuts through not refilling positions,” says Lorenzen.

However, Lorenzen has personally taken a pay cut, as have most others at her level at the university. “There’s probably more of that to come,” she predicts. “I’d be surprised if all of us didn’t have at least a week of furlough or some kind of pay cut next year.”

Lorenzen does expect that the budget cuts will affect her spending on patents, but it’s hard to predict the impact at this point. “It’s harder to have a set dollar amount on patent costs because you don’t know what disclosures you’re going to get. Rather than a dollar amount, we’re trying to be mindful of our patent budgets and just make smarter choices. For example, we will probably not file as many provisional applications with a full claim set. That could save quite a bit of money, because we’re not converting all of them, anyway.”

Lorenzen does anticipate a potential struggle with long-term licensing activity. In the short-term, she has had several companies pull out of negotiations because of COVID-related issues. It is not clear whether these are opportunities that will come back when the crisis ends. Lorenzen also notes that their future ability to generate new licensing opportunities is unclear as companies adjust to their own economic issues.

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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