The Evolving Art of Technology Transfer

Posted February 20th, 2006 · Tags: , ,

Originally published in John’s Journal: Research and Development by the University of Missouri. Copyright 2006, Curators of the University of Missouri.

Having a personal commitment to this blog, only a couple of things would keep me from writing for a month. And tending to the changes and people involved in our technology transfer offices at OTSP and across the campuses is one of them.

Effective immediately, we are reorganizing what has been OTSP (the Office of Technology and Special Projects) into a University of Missouri system-wide office, and separate technology transfer offices on each of the campuses. The central office (what we’ll call the intellectual property core) will be responsible for those areas which are most efficiently and effectively kept in one spot – crafting policy and offering legal, fiscal, information technology and some marketing support to the campus offices. Each campus office will be responsible for dealing directly with the faculty and assisting them to steward their best ideas to the market in the most appropriate manner possible.

These changes seem consistent with what both faculty and our partners have suggested, and the changes also fit our responsibility to better translate our research into tangible economic development. We have methodically reviewed our plans with staff, key administrators, and the Vice Provosts for Research at each of the campuses who have or will put this new organizational structure in place.

While the changes are effective immediately, it will take some time for us to fully operate effectively under the new structure. Besides the tasks of modifying job descriptions, finding new office space, shaking down a new software platform, and getting used to new reporting lines – all stressful in and of themselves – it has also struck me how dynamic and rapidly changing the whole field of technology transfer is.

I’ve spent most of the last couple of months in careful study of not only the University of Missouri’s evolving methods of technology transfer, but also many other peer institutions in the U.S., western Europe, and Asia. There are clear trends. There is increasing consolidation and sophistication of key repetitive functions, like the legal and financial tools for managing patents and other intellectual property. But there is also the trend of decentralization and customizing the service and stewardship of intellectual property to the individual field and inventor. See a report from the University of California System from 1994.

Our own technology transfer office has reflected these trends. One small, centralized office at the University of Missouri system level served all campuses and faculty (with several growth spurts) until 1989, when the office was expanded for improved services until 1999. The reorganization of 1999 was our first move toward decentralization, with the creation of the OTSP which was shared with MU. The change now under way advances the notion that each campus requires an office tailored to their needs.

I ask for your patience, input, and support as we embark on this next era of technology transfer at the University of Missouri. You won’t hear much about it until May, but then look for a new written guide and process for assisting faculty innovators. We hope to earn your confidence and work together to better link our research with economic development.



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