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Jim Woodell, Ph.D.
Vice President for Economic Development and Community Engagement


Technology Transfer Evolution Working Group

APLU’s Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, and Economic Prosperity (CICEP) created the Technology Transfer Evolution Working Group to identify ways in which the practice of university technology transfer is changing, and must continue to change, to sustain and increase university responsiveness to the needs of stakeholders, and more broadly to challenges in society and the economy.

Technology Transfer Evolution Report Cover

CICEP’s Technology Transfer Evolution Working Group began its work in 2016 by framing the issues. The group noted that public research universities have a responsibility to help drive economic and social prosperity in their regions and beyond. In the context of that responsibility, the working group observed that “quickly fading are the days of technology transfer offices focusing solely on patenting and licensing.”

Today, universities are moving beyond a revenue-driven, transactional technology transfer approach and integrating the efforts of technology management offices into the broader engagement activities of institutions. Universities are becoming active in regional and national innovation ecosystems, preparing students for today’s disruption economy, and driving economic and social prosperity. In response, technology transfer must connect with institutions’ work to be engaged in economic, community, and talent development. The working group committed to emphasizing a redefinition of expectations by university leaders and governing boards about the purposes and success indicators for university engagement in innovation and technology transfer.  

The working group was charged with the following:

  1. Examine the evolution of technology transfer in detail.
  2. Point to examples of the ways in which technology transfer is changing.
  3. Identify challenges or obstacles to the ongoing evolution.
  4. Make recommendations regarding what universities must do to continue the evolution.

The working group developed a set of five topic areas for exploration, along with key points for examination and discussion:

Engaging the Local and Regional Ecosystem

  • relationship-building with industry
  • working with government and community partners
  • innovation management in economic development 

Redefining Expectations of Technology Transfer Offices

  • institutional policies to facilitate success: measurements and indicators of success, clarity of purpose, lowering barriers for rapid movement of technology to market
  • beyond patents, licensing, and transactions: linking to broader economic engagement, education, and research missions 
  • partnership development across the triple helix (universities, government, and business)

Adapting Innovation Management Structures 

  • aligning and connecting innovation management with industry liaison, research parks, entrepreneurship, economic development, and other related activities
  • reporting structure for different aspects of economic engagement, including where innovation management is placed in the organization, to whom it reports, and which units it directly supervises or works with laterally
  • people and skill sets

Fostering an Entrepreneurial Culture

  • entrepreneurship awareness and education for faculty, staff, and students
  • connecting and aligning across entrepreneurial education efforts
  • mentoring and entrepreneurs in residence
  • institutional policy in support of entrepreneurial culture

Supporting University Startups

  • definitions of “startup,” and in particular definitions that are sufficient to encompass all relevant entrepreneurial activity
  • innovation management mechanisms for startup support (for example: incubators, accelerator programs, etc.)
  • role of innovation management in activities like demo days, business plan competitions, technology challenges, etc.
  • programs to stimulate startup formation 

Learn More

Working Group Members
Briefs and Report


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