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Impediments to Tech Transfer—and Solutions

The Impediments Universities, federal labs and research institutes do not have adequate incentives to commercialize ideas. These “idea factories” have …

The Impediments

  1. Universities, federal labs and research institutes do not have adequate incentives to commercialize ideas.
  2. These “idea factories” have an incentive to charge large, up-front royalties rather than accept shares in successful start-ups that may not yield gains for several years.
  3. Ph.D. inventors inside these idea factories do not have enough personal connections with business-minded people with MBAs.
  4. Tech institutions do not know how to build teams with the right combination of skills to commercialize an idea.
  5. Would-be entrepreneurs emerging from a lab lack access to seed-stage capital to test their ideas in the market.
  6. Established businesses looking for new ideas may want to strike quick deals that secure control of a technology.

Possible Solutions

  1. Alter federal funding methods to encourage not just basic research but also encourage commercialization efforts. Allocate funding, for example, to technology-transfer offices, including the writing of patents.
  2. Persuade idea factory leaders that they will achieve greater, long-term financial gains by making it easier and cheaper for technologies to be spun out. No longer require tech-transfer offices to fund their own operations from licensing fees.
  3. Create social-networking events where technologists meet with potential CEOs, as well as marketers, financial mavens and manufacturing experts. Break down rigid, vertical siloes in universities between engineering and business schools.
  4. Create more incubators just outside the idea factory’s walls to serve as crossroads for different types of talent.
  5. Encourage early-stage investors and venture capitalists to go to events inside technology institutions to meet people with the best ideas.
  6. Business leaders must recognize that successful technol- ogy transfer requires more than just licensing a patent.

 

About William J. Holstein