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TTOs continue to adapt to shifting realities of the pandemic


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

Editor’s note: As COVID vaccines became available in early 2021, optimism grew. But, as the Delta variant took hold in the summer of 2021 and now extends into the fall, we wondered how technology transfer offices were handling the resurgence of the virus, how their operations were adjusting, and what they expect in the coming months. We asked 12 TTOs across the country how they were doing. The full article appears in the October issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here.

As the Delta variant of the COVID virus surged, it became clear that most TTOs would be using some version of a hybrid staffing model for this fall.

In the Office of Research and Economic Development at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the staff returned to campus on August 16 with a six-month trial period for hybrid alternative work sites. “We have a range from 100% in the office to down to 40%, but we only have one person that’s 40%. Most everybody is out of the office on Tuesday and Thursday,” reports Brad Roth, PhD, executive director of NUtech Ventures and associate vice chancellor, technology development in the Office of Research and Economic Development. He adds that three people out of 14 are 100% back in the office. “We have a lot of people with young families and a lot of children who aren’t vaccinated. So, people are still cautious about where they’re going and what they’re doing.”

Kelly B. Sexton, PhD, associate vice president for research, technology transfer, and innovation partnerships at the University of Michigan, reports that her staff returned to the office on a hybrid schedule on September 7. “At some point, you need the ability to refresh your office culture and start to rebuild it,” she says. “I felt like we were losing some of our collaborative muscle memory…. I felt like it was important for us to have the ability to come in in person.”

Her team members are in the office anywhere between two and five days a week. “We’re already starting to do events in person and have meetings, and it’s been lovely to get to start to rebuild things.” But, she admits, “the way we’re working right now in the office isn’t the way I had hoped we would be working in those wonderful few months of [early summer]. Before the Delta variant was the subject of daily discourse, there was a brief period where it felt very safe to be indoors with colleagues without masks. So, it’s impacting a bit the way we’re working. We’re wearing masks for our office.”

The staff in the Office of Technology Management (OTM) at Washington University in St. Louis returned with a hybrid model just after Labor Day. The patent team comes in one day, the licensing team on another day, and the contracts team on another day. Nichole Mercier, PhD, assistant vice chancellor & managing director, allows employees to rotate their schedules or to come in more often if they want to.

“Most people are coming in one day a week,” Mercier reports. “We’ll see how it goes. We plan to come back more. So maybe two or three days a week. This schedule was just a way to ease into it. With Delta being high … there’s general nervousness still.”

The University of Delaware’s Office of Economic Innovation & Partnerships is the only office of the 12 surveyed that will remain in 100% remote operation this fall. However, the reason for that has more to do with budget decisions than with the Delta surge, says Joy Goswami, assistant director of technology transfer & corporate partnerships.

His office faced significant budget cuts when the pandemic hit, he explains. To avoid having to terminate any employees, Goswami canceled their office lease. Meanwhile, all the staff agreed to work from home until they could move into a new office that is under construction. “For the long term,” Goswami notes, “we are trying to see if we can do a hybrid where my team comes to work, maybe two or three days a week and then a couple of other days they can work from home, doing something where we can use common office space.”

Laurie Actman, chief marketing, communications & program officer at the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) at the University of Pennsylvania, notes that the current wave of COVID-19 has caused the re-implementation of many public health measures, such as indoor masking and vaccination and testing requirements. Still, the return to campus has proceeded as planned for her office.

“Our operations are functional, within the public health rules that are in place. There are recruiting challenges that it seems our peers are experiencing as well, but other than that, our plans are on track,” she says. The PCI staff is back in the office at least three days a week through the end of 2021. At that time, the university and PCI will reassess global and local conditions and determine if the pilot phase of on-campus work will continue or expand.

Bridget Stull, director of administration & systems at the University of Kansas Center for Technology Commercialization, says her team will also operate on a hybrid schedule this fall. She noted, though, that the considerations are less operational and more about physical space.

“As we remain in a hybrid work model, campus leadership is taking a look at the office space that was once occupied full-time and considering how best to place staff going forward,” she says. “For the TTO that may mean locating licensing associates in their dedicated areas of focus, such as engineering, life science, etc., one or more days a week, while employing financial and operations staff in the main TTO office to serve as a nucleus for the unit. Our overall focus is maintaining availability to serve our faculty, staff, and students via a physical presence on campus in light of changing or reduced physical space.”

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Online meet and greet with Tech Transfer Central’s Director of Distance Learning Debi Melillo

Join Tech Transfer Central’s Director of Distance Learning, Debi Melillo, for a free online meet and greet on October 28, starting at 2:00 pm ET.

Debi will demonstrate the benefits and content available through Tech Transfer Central’s All-Access Pass and answer all of your questions. She’ll outline how the All-Access Pass works, and how your university can save thousands of dollars in staff training costs while dramatically expanding professional development opportunities for your entire office and faculty.

The session will be informal and brief, and Debi will stay online to answer any questions and schedule demos. Plus, just for attending this free session we are offering an exclusive first-year discount good for $500 off on your first-year subscription.

The meet and greet is free, but registration is required. Please click here to register and qualify for this exclusive $500 savings. We look forward to meeting you online. If you can’t attend the meet and greet but wish to schedule a demo, contact Debi directly at dmelillo@techtransfercentral.com.

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VC Lab creates streamlined documents for start-up investment agreements


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

VC Lab, an accelerator for venture capital firms, is offering free documents to help start-ups and investors streamline the agreement process. continue reading »

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Marketing University Innovations: Strategies to Revitalize and Expand a High-Touch, Low-Tech Approach that Gets Results


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

The world is changing rapidly, and it has become increasingly clear that TTO marketing strategies must change as well to match new ways of working and new ways of communicating. However, in the tech transfer world personal networks and high-touch contact still matter, and chasing the latest technology-driven marketing tools and strategies often just nibbles at the margins. 

While the art of making the personal connection appears to be losing ground to technology, the old “contact sport” maxim still holds true – but the “old” can and should become new again.

To make your innovations stand out and attract more high-quality licensees, partners, and funding sources, tech transfer professionals must pursue new ways to connect with their audience using a personal touch, in-person engagement, and story-telling. 

The National Cancer Institute’s Invention Development & Marketing Unit (IDMU), which sits within the NCI’s Technology Transfer Center (TTC), is a unique unit with a singular focus: marketing. IDMU is making great strides using an active person-to-person approach to create awareness of technology licensing and collaborative opportunities, and it is expanding that approach by targeting non-traditional entities that don’t know these opportunities exist.

To help you learn from and tap into their successes, Tech Transfer Central has enlisted Joseph M. Conrad, JD, PhD, Senior Technology Transfer Manager at the National Cancer Institute, to present this detailed, strategy-filled webinar: Marketing University Innovations: Strategies to Revitalize and Expand a High-Touch, Low-Tech Approach that Gets Results, scheduled for November 17. For complete details and to register, click here.

Also coming soon:

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UCLA researchers develop wearable device that generates electricity from body movement


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

Researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a wearable technology that converts human body movements into electricity. continue reading »

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New platform will collect and publish research and innovation efforts across Puerto Rico


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

A new program aims to publicize Puerto Rico’s research and innovation efforts to help promote research capabilities and boost scientific collaborations across the island. continue reading »

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Imperial College London researchers advance low-cost ventilator for developing countries


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

Researchers at Imperial College London (ICL) have developed a low-cost ventilator that could address the shortage of ventilators in developing countries. continue reading »

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How COVID-19 has influenced commercialization at Emory University


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

In a recent blog post, Todd Sherer, executive director of the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) at Emory University, discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tech commercialization at the university. continue reading »

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Become a Certified Patent Valuation Analyst from your home or office


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

Becoming a Certified Patent Valuation Analyst has never been more convenient and accessible with a four-course, self-study program provided exclusively through the Business Development Academy. Participants earn their CPVA designation by completing the following programs and a post-course exam:

Valuation of Emerging Technologies – 8 Hours, with in-depth review of more than 20 valuation methodologies, intro to the Patent Valuation Gauntlet and worksheet containing 900+ issues to consider in patent valuation, and Excel spreadsheets with the more than 40 valuation methodologies.

Negotiating Licensing Agreements for Maximum Returns – 3.5 Hours, including  details on royalty rates, upfront payments and milestones, options, sponsored research, royalty stacking, sublicensing, fields of use, most favored licensee, managing litigation, royalty audits, and more.

Advanced Patent Valuation – 3.5 Hours, covering balancing broad versus narrow claims, mixing independent and dependent claims, managing interactions with patent examiners, selecting and defining the most appropriate terms, and managing the pace of patent prosecution.

Calculating Damages Resulting from Patent Infringement – 3.5 Hours, covering issues including reasonable royalties, lost profits, price erosion, market size, reputational damage, market spoilage, the Georgia-Pacific factors, the 25% rule, cost of next-best alternative, and running royalties vs. lump-sum payments.

With a CPVA designation you can advance your career as an intellectual property manager, licensing manager, technology transfer professional, inventor, patent lawyer, financial analyst and business development executive. The Business Development Academy’s world-renowned training approaches patent valuation from analytical, legal, financial and practical perspectives –arming you with the knowledge and critical thinking abilities to negotiate and structure more accretive licensing arrangements.

Click here for more details or to order.

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Emory launches student-led VC fund to support underrepresented start-ups


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

Emory University is launching a new venture capital fund that will provide students with hands-on experience investing in tech start-ups founded by underrepresented entrepreneurs. continue reading »

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U of Michigan researchers use augmented reality to improve safety of nuclear reactors


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 20th, 2021

Researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) are using augmented reality (AR) to detect radiation defects in nuclear reactors. continue reading »

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College Ventures Network aims to level the playing field for student start-ups


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 13th, 2021

A detailed article on the College Ventures Network appears in the September issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here.

A consortium of more than two dozen student-led accelerators from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom this summer launched College Ventures Network, a global coalition that hopes to link student start-up founders with the money and support they need — but so often can’t access.

The effort is the brainchild of Stanford University undergraduates Grant Gordon and Enya Lu, who are co-managing directors of the school’s only student-run start-up accelerator, Cardinal Ventures. Among other student-led accelerators participating are those from Harvard University, Brown University, Stevens Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia, Northeastern University, Rice University, and UC Berkeley.

For now, College Ventures Network (CVN) is loosely organized. “We’re just a group of equals,” Gordon says. “We organize through a Slack channel. We meet as a group quarterly, and more frequently in smaller groups to plan various events.”

The first big event was a Demo Day in June designed “to share resources, support student founders, and provide broad-based access to top-tier capital for the next generation of incredible student founders,” according to the official event description. For that forum, each student-run start-up accelerator selected its best commercial prospect to present to a unified group of investors.

By putting all that commercial promise in one place, “the investors get better deals, and the founders that are really committed to working on the companies get a larger pool of investors,” Gordon comments. “It’s a very simple value proposition.”

The CVN has bigger plans, of course, including another Demo Day in Spring 2022 and smaller events at various intervals. Also on the drawing board is a definitive guide for how to start a student-led start-up accelerator.

Gordon says the idea for CVN stemmed from students around the world reaching out to Cardinal Ventures, which was the first student-led start-up accelerator, asking for guidance on starting accelerator programs on their own campuses. “We were seeing our calendar getting filled with endless conversations, which were wonderful, and we learned a ton,” he said. “We thought, why don’t we just bring all of them together so we can all talk and learn from each other?”

The timing was right, he said, given “the rise of so-called Gen Z VCs,” a term referring to venture capitalists born after 1995 who are newly empowered to write checks for promising ideas. “This new class of investors is leading a new wave of interest.”

Among all the discussions with students elsewhere, he said, a common theme of “trying to level the playing field” when it comes to obtaining early-stage funding emerged, which ultimately spurred the foundation of CVN.

Stanford has many advantages that others don’t, such as being close to Silicon Valley, a history of successful start-ups from its ranks, and a number of alumni who are noted venture capitalists. “Normally, getting folks to show up to our events at Stanford is relatively easy and insanely hard anywhere else,” Gordon notes. “One thing that was most consistent from every conversation that we had, especially for folks in the middle of the country, is that it’s just impossible to get investors to take your company seriously.”

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Earlybird launches €75M fund to support start-ups from European universities


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: October 13th, 2021

Earlybird, a venture capital firm focused on European tech start-ups, is creating a new €75 million (over $86.5M US) fund to support companies launched out of European universities. continue reading »

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