University Technology Transfer

University researchers, scientists, and inventors, not infrequently, describe their (working) relationships…with their Technology Transfer Office’s (TTO’s), or the various campus specific equivalents, as enlightening, supportive, strategic, sometimes cumbersome, bureaucratic, complicated, and occasionally contentious.  These are my observations as well, having served in academia for 20+ years and having been the principle contributor to a book regarding ‘TTO on-boarding’ for universities.

Building and sustaining a mutual understanding and respect for each parties’ contributory role to…often protracted technology (science) development, i.e., it’s validity, practicality, and potential for commercialization.

Absent having a technology transfer process rooted in artful respect and understanding…as numerous universities have experienced, is frequently, an unfortunate precursor to confusion and contention insofar as distinguishing, understanding, respecting, and negotiating…

  • what’s mine, what’s ours, and what’s theirs!

As these intangibles become embedded and consistently exhibited…by all parties, the probability for achieving a professionally satisfying outcome elevates. The outcome, of course, may, or may not, include lucrative or profession advancing commercialization of one’s research or invention.

But, irrespective of the preferred – desired outcome of technology – science transfer, an achievable, and perhaps obligatory requisite (hallmark of self-confident and self-effacing TTO’s) materialize – come to be exhibited through their interactions with faculty researchers that encourage consistent (TTO) contact.

Referencing my own comraderic experiences and observations in academia with TTO’s…initially as a faculty member and researcher, and currently as a consultant and author on matters related to intangible assets, I find, most university-employed researchers-inventors rightfully earn – deserve pride and enthusiasm for the research science they conduct.

This is especially evident when their sustained focus and effort…materializes as consecutive years of rigorous research, testing, validating, and practical corroboration. One outcome of which may evolve as a form of intellectual property, usually, a patent and/or license, and possible commercialization, or its myriad alternatives.

Competing in a global research environment…is now a fundamental factor which university-based researchers, (serial) inventors, and technology transfer managers alike, are obliged to recognize.

Today’s university-based research and development (R&D) environment is…globally competitive, aggressive, predatorial, and frequently ‘first to the market-space wins’, irrespective of intellectual property claims. Necessarily then, conducting university-based research and engaging in technology transfer, parties are obliged to recognize their work warrants certain strategic competencies and outlooks insofar as competing in increasingly intertwined global market-spaces.

Conventional distinctions and boundaries between university-based, for-profit, and public, not-for-profit research…have become variously blurred, particularly in the context of domestic and international alliances and collaborations. Collectively, these now normal nuances, for some, are challenging to put-to-practice, for each field of research.

It is true, unfamiliarity with, or disregard for these global R&D realities…can contribute to significant challenges insofar as petitioning (research products and/or inventions) for, and successfully being registered as intellectual property…

  • when, for example, a faculty researcher-inventor designs a compound, product, or device which can be readily circumvented, designed around, or
  • may have already been (unbeknownst) compromised-infringed-counterfeited, significant challenges and disputes are sure to arise rapidly, and on many levels, often irreversibly.

These circumstances can become particularly disconcerting to…credulous faculty (researchers-inventors) when they recognize – are informed a patent application-registration process will be difficult at best, i.e.,

  • perhaps ill-advised, financially unfeasible to enforce, and un-attractive to prospective investors, licensees, and commercialization.

University technology transfer offices should ideally be considered the starting point…for faculty researchers-inventors to (a.) disclose – articulate their invention, (b.) acquire the necessary counsel and guidance, and (c.) commence technology transfer, should that collectively be deemed a viable – preferred course of action.

Of course, university technology transfer teams have myriad professional obligations…one of which is to provide current, accurate, and experienced counsel and guidance. A particularly disconcerting aspect to any R&D – technology transfer (initial) engagement for a faculty researcher-inventor, is recognizing the reality that…

  • not all discoveries gravitate – are destined to become registered intellectual property and viable properties for technology transfer and/or lucrative commercialization.

From experience, it’s appropriate for one to assume…patentability prospects of one’s research product and/or invention should, at least initially, be suspect, and subject to rigorous professional vetting, outcomes of which are attributable to numerous factors and variables, some beyond one’s immediate control.

Experience is clear on this matter, pre-mature – ill-advised revelation plays a dominant and often irreversible role!

…the person who elects not to read has little or no advantage over the person who cannot read! (Variously attributed to Samuel Clemens, adapted by Michael D. Moberly.)

Michael D. Moberly  September 22, 2017 [email protected] St. Louis the ‘Business Intangible Asset Blog’ since May 2006, 600+ published blog posts, where one’s attention, business challenges, intangible assets, and solutions converge’

Readers are invited to explore other blog posts, video, position papers, and books at

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