University Research Technology Transfer Intangible Assets!

Michael D. Moberly     May 4, 2014   ‘A long form blog where attention span really matters’!

Having been in academia for 20+ years, I found that most, if not all, university research (whether basic or applied) and the subsequent innovations – inventions produced potentially valuable, and certainly equally important intangible assets.

In early stage research, intangible assets often compliment and/or serve as supporting foundations to the invention – innovation and ultimately the intellectual property (IP), should that be the path and/or strategy the tech transfer office deems appropriate and worthy of the necessary resources.  IP, after all, is what most technology transfer managers, faculty researchers, inventors, research administrators aspire often times to the chagrin of intangible asset strategists and risk specialists.

In far too many instances however, an inventions – innovations underlying and often facilitating intangible assets, particularly intellectual, structural, and relationship capital are overlooked, dismissed, or utterly overshadowed by the time honored and emotion laden predilection associated with acquiring conventional IP, typically the issuance of a patent.

Unfortunately, but quite realistically, today’s road to successful technology transfer is increasingly protracted, and strewn with costly and embedded with asymmetric risks of the type which can readily undermine asset value along with its competitive, attractive, and potentially lucrative components.  Collectively, this suggests the prospects for developing the next high royalty generating Gatorades’, as was the case at the University of Florida are few and far between. Since U of F achieved this research feat in 1965, the landscape of the R&D environment as a whole, has changed significantly in terms of now being global aggressive, competitive, predatorial, and certainly winner-take-all.

But, that shouldn’t and doesn’t keep faculty researchers from continually trying!

After all, it’s an economic fact though, that 80+% of most university-based invention’s value and foundations for generating revenue, especially faculty researcher generated (university-based) inventions, evolve directly from intangible assets.  This economic fact now makes it all the more prudent to factor into technology transfer processes, intangible assets!

Why?, because in most instances, intangible assets underlie, are embedded in, and are valuable by-products of scientific innovations.  To consider intangible assets as after-thoughts or subordinate to intellectual properties relative to technology transfer invention assessments leaves potentially lucrative (licensing) opportunities and value on the proverbial strategic planning and negotiating tables!

Similarly, narrowly conceiving university research, inventions, and technology transfer processes through conventional IP (patent – licensing) only lens often diminishes our inclination to genuinely explore options for exploiting the potential value and competitive advantages generated fromintangibles already embedded in most every invention – innovation.

When intangible assets are overlooked or not properly factored into the technology transfer processes, their supportive and contributory role – value, and even possibly their defensive role for enhancing and sustaining the invention (research) and aspired IP will likely be irrevocably lost.  Increasingly, this bodes well for global economic and competitive advantage adversaries who have the where with all to identify, acquired, and exploit (monetize) those assets for their benefit and profit at the rightful owners’ expense.

There are multiple other benefits that can accrue to university technology transfer teams and faculty inventors’ when they acquire an operational familiarity with intangibles which includes identifying, unraveling, and leveraging the intangibles associated with an invention versus lumping them or dismissing them into the ‘catch all’ goodwill bucket.  In other words, intangibles can and should be integrated into an inventor’s technology transfer strategic plan.

So, with 80+% of an institution’s value and sources of revenue residing in intangible assets, every university inventor and technology transfer office should engage the intangibles now!

While visiting my blog, you are encouraged to browse other categories which you may find relevant. Too, I welcome your comments and inquiries at  314-440-3593 or [email protected]

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