Tech Transfer 2.0 book

Cover-thumbailTech Transfer is available in paper version on amazon and as a free pdf download.  

This book is a compilation of two years of selected articles from my now-retired blog, “Tech Transfer 2.0.” I added new content, updated some articles and put them all together into a single book to share my experience gained from four years of working at a large research university in a university’s technology transfer office.

A technology transfer office is an administrative unit. Its charter is to manage a university’s patent portfolio and other intellectual property created in university research labs.  I decided to put together a book on university research commercialization when I realized that few people know about the massive research ecosystem that lurks inside universities.  Although all of us touch, use and benefit from the result of university research on a daily basis, few people know how, exactly, their tax dollars eventually morph into a useful product, a new plant line, advances in genetic research, new vaccines and more.

Here’s how the university tech transfer process works: federal agencies fund basic research on campus. Professors and graduate students come up with breakthrough ideas and new inventions which they formally report to their university’s technology transfer office. Businesses and startups who wish to create a new product or service using a university patent work with the university’s technology transfer office to negotiate and sign a contract with the university for patent rights.

The goal of this book is to raise questions. Some of the following essays are practical in nature. Other essays point out flawed assumptions that tend to permeate public discussions about the university tech transfer process. Finally, in the last few pages, I broaden my focus and write about broader issues around innovation such as organizational culture and fair trade electronics.

My hope is that if you read this book, you will feel better-equipped to draw your own conclusions and find your own answers to the big questions.  *Who* exactly, should benefit from tax-payer funded university research, and *what*, exactly, is the best way to make that happen?

Table of contents


  • The big picture: why should I care about university research?
  • Who’s who? University tech transfer stakeholders
  • Universities as innovation merchants
  • Unintended consequences

Chapter 1: University technology transfer strategy

  • Innovation is like love: set it free and if it comes back to you, it’s (partially) yours
  • Protecting university inventions from…university administrators?
  • Underfunded or underperforming? Depends on who you ask
  • Introducing the free market into university technology transfer services
  • Fear, uncertainty and doubt and university IP strategy
  • Why offshoring some tech transfer functions could help create U.S. jobs
  • What universities can learn from IBM’s IP licensing strategies
  • Don’t ship the org chart

Chapter 2: Federal policy

  • Three tribes, policy, and three realities
  • Fund the future, not the past
  • It’s not law: legal requirements for university tech transfer are minimal
  • Turning the battleship with small-scale, high risk, high reward pilot programs
  • Would taxing universities save regional economies?
  • First, four star Army generals, now four star university professors
  • Allocating broadband: university towns, manufacturing towns or rural areas?

Chapter 3: Intellectual property and licensing university patents

  • Intel to universities: no patents, please, just open source
  • Intellectual property “grey markets” at research universities
  • Open source hardware and university patents
  • Open source hardware: disrupting the centralized, linear university model
  • Moving away from bricks and mortar tech transfer
  • Intellectual Ventures and university patents

Chapter 4: Startups and entrepreneurship

  • Health insurance for university startups: the ultimate regional economic development
  • Easing the contractual burdens of university startups
  • When university startups patent their R&D like big companies
  • University patents and our nation’s forgotten entrepreneurs

Chapter 5: Measuring and comparing university performance

  • Measuring performance with the tech transfer health index
  • A simple metric for university patent licensing, startups and licensing speed
  • Who does it best? Comparing universities by number of papers, inventions and industry research funding
  • Teaching, research, alumni donations … and accumulating patents
  • Canadian universities, the innovation gap, and leaping the landline

Chapter 6: Innovation Strategy

  • Incumbency, innovation, and the tablet wars
  • Fair trade electronics: responsible innovation
  • Motivating and retaining innovative employees in a bureaucracy
  • What are they guarding? Why people resist change
  • Why smartfailing will improve university innovation strategy

Some closing thoughts

  • Myth, myth! University intellectual property strategy and the fine art of storytelling