Commercialization? Not me!
One of the elements of my job that I really enjoy is presenting to UNH faculty, staff, and students about technology transfer. What is it? Why do we do it? How do we do it? Over the years, a common reaction to these questions has been:
“Why do I need to care about commercialization?”
“I’m not interested in it, and it’s not right for my work nor for me.”
Rather than being a conversation stopper, this creates the perfect opening for a discussion about why commercialization is absolutely right for you.
A few basics first and then I’ll get to “why you:”
What is tech transfer?
Really, it’s just as it sounds, but think broadly about the word “tech.” “Tech” is not technology in its narrowest sense. “Tech” is anything of value that can benefit another. Tech transfer then becomes a process of transferring knowledge, expertise, skills, as well as innovations that include paintings, survey tools, curricula, plant seeds, and technical inventions.
Why do it?
At UNH, tech transfer becomes one mechanism by which we can enable larger audiences to benefit from our research programs. Sharing our data, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and presenting at conferences are valuable tools to inform scientific peer communities of our work. Tech transfer facilitates the delivery of that scientific work as goods or services so that non-scientific peer communities can also access and utilize the high-quality science. But the key is, through tech transfer, the goods and services maintain the fidelity of the research that created them.
How do we do it?
We use a process called Intellectual Asset Management to protect and derive maximum value from our innovations. The process consists of identifying innovations, evaluating them for legal protections (for example - copyrights, trademarks, patents?) as well as marketability (who could use this innovation, how would they use it, what are competitor innovations, etc.), finding licensees to either use or commercialize the innovation, and managing relationships to ensure the appropriate representation of the innovation in the good or services offered, as well as the interests of our innovator and UNH.
What is commercialization?
At UNH, commercialization encompasses a continuum of options. Commercializing an innovation can mean making a deal that could include an up-front license fee and annual royalty payments for a patent-protected innovation. It can also mean licensing an image of the deepest part of the ocean for use in a Godzilla movie. It can mean licensing a trademark to a nonprofit start-up that benefits wounded warriors. And it can include selecting the correct Open Source or Creative Commons license to make software or other copyrights available to others, providing attribution to the creator of the work and maintaining fidelity to the research which made it possible.
Which brings us to our final question:
Why do I need to care about commercialization?
Commercialization demonstrates funding outcomes to sponsors, and we are seeing this topic included in more requests for proposals and solicitations. In addition, UNH’s ability to manage intellectual property (IP) is fundamental to developing successful industrial partnerships; if we value our own IP, then we will value their IP as well. Commercialization is also a component of the terms and conditions we accept with federal funds.
UNH’s mission includes outreach. Commercialization is one more means for our research to reach and benefit the public.
Fidelity to your research:
Using the right contractual vehicle (including creative commons and open source licenses) enables us to make sure that the value and quality of your evidence-based findings are not diluted by others, intentionally or not. It helps to ensure that attribution is always required, and it can provide a mechanism to track the usage or implementation of your research.
Commercialization can generate personal income for an innovator(s) and help fund research programs. It can also generate future funding opportunities through sponsored research agreements for additional development work or related projects. And it can be valuable to individuals who may not otherwise have been able to directly benefit from a research initiative undertaken at UNH.
Please contact me to further discuss intellectual property and commercialization, whether you are developing a grant proposal or have developed an innovation. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.