Tech Transfer Central

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Associate Director and Executive Director roles at Michigan State University


Michigan State University has exclusively retained Gardner Innovation Search Partners to fill two critical roles within their Innovation Center: Associate Director – Technology Transfer and Commercialization, MSU Technologies & Executive Director – Business Connect.

The MSU Innovation Center combines innovation, technology transfer, start-up support and a portfolio of dedicated business and community partnerships to bring cutting-edge ideas to the marketplace. Composed of Business Connect, MSU Technologies, and Spartan Innovations, the MSU Innovation Center stewards ideas from concept to product, engaging in hundreds of corporate-sponsored programs, and launching more than 130 discoveries into patented products and start-up businesses annually.

Associate Director Qualifications:

  • A high degree of energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to transferring technology for public benefit.
  • Ability to collaborate with internal offices and third parties, including other academic institutions and industry.
  • Leadership experience in academic technology transfer or experience in corporate business development. 5-10 years of licensing experience, with a preference for an in-depth understanding of and experience in a research university environment.
  • Strong interpersonal skills along with the ability and desire to develop and lead the licensing team. Ability to efficiently and effectively mentor and guide a significant number of direct reports. Sets clear expectations and holds direct reports accountable for performance.
  • Experience in supporting and growing professional development of technology transfer staff.
  • Deep understanding of the academic research environment, including the various stakeholders of an academic technology transfer office.
  • Bachelor’s degree in science or engineering is required and an advanced degree is preferred.
  • Excellent working knowledge of laws and business practices related to university technology transfer.

Executive Director Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree required, an advanced degree (PhD, MBA, etc.) preferred (preferably in business, engineering, or the sciences).
  • 10 years’ experience working in research management, business development, or corporate relations with at least 5 years of this experience in private sector research and development. Extensive and broad experience in the business of research and commercialization, a documented and strong track record in negotiation and contract development, or other business operations across an academic-corporate interface.
  • Commercial expertise and mindset achieved as an executive or manager of a business unit, a corporate, government or academic corporate engagement unit, or research and development organization. Evidence of ability to balance competing priorities and effective time management skills.
  • General management experience in a university, or biotechnology/engineering, or other relevant company, and related experience building and/or managing a unit within an academic environment. A demonstrated record of proactive attention to matters of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
  • Specific experience that relates to technologies with commercial potential developed in MSU colleges (e.g., Agriculture, Communication Arts and Sciences, Education, Engineering, Natural Science, Social Sciences and Medicine) is highly desired.
  • Demonstrated ability to interact effectively with a wide variety of people and to act effectively both independently and as a member of a team.
  • A reputation and demonstrated success as a visionary, creative and dynamic business professional, and more specifically, success in creating commercial value derived from scientific or other innovations. International business experience and established networks are highly desired.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills, highly effective as a business leader sensitive to the needs and workings of the academic and corporate environments and missions. Must demonstrate leadership and a capacity to achieve consensus among university officials, the MSU Foundation, Michigan economic development leaders and Business Connect personnel concerning key initiatives, commercial strategies and long-term planning of technology growth and infrastructure.
  • Capacity to easily comprehend technical communications/documents from diverse scientific and technical disciplines and work effectively with diverse elements of the MSU technology base.
  • Operational knowledge and significant experience with university-based research contracting processes and the development and execution of diverse agreements, demonstrated negotiating skills, and experience in advanced deal-making business strategies. Evidence of creative solutions in complex negotiations and an experience in negotiating to productive middle ground will be highly valued.
  • Established networks and working relationships with corporations within the US and internationally, to enable opportunities to link Business Connect to external partners.
  • Familiarity with external funding opportunities from federal, state, or private granting agencies, and generally understand the requirements of regulatory bodies (FDA, USDA, EMEA etc.).
  • Fluency with computer software (spreadsheet, word processing, PowerPoint).
  • Advanced knowledge of the law (especially relating to contracts and intellectual property).

Read more about each of the roles here:

Associate Director

Executive Director 

Please send any questions to Glen Gardner at