Confronting Future Challenges in Tech Transfer

Posted May 26, 2018

Foresight Chair of the Board, Dr. Phyllis Speser, was the closing keynote speaker at the 2018 ASTP Annual Conference in Liege in May 25, 2018. Her talk focused on future challenges for technology transfer. Noting that most TTOs lose money for their institution or lab, and most technologies never make it to market, she questioned the wisdom of focusing on licenses and revenues as key metrics. She noted that the emphasis on money and licenses distracted attention from social impact, such a reducing illness, mitigating climate change, providing clean energy, and so forth. Social impact, she went on, can be measured in terms of United Nations European Union, and national government priorities. Such an emphasis would allow TTOs and their institution to demonstrate their utility to the public and political decision makers in ways money does not. It would also better align TTO activities with the common perceived mission of a university, government lab, research hospital or non profit lab, namely creation and dissemination of knowledge for the good of all. She encourage the attendees to engage in a thought experiment on their portfolios, looking at how they would manage them differently if maximizing positive social impact and the dissemination of knowledge were their primary metrics. How would it affect how they dealt with student entrepreneurs and educational activities within the university or other institutions? She concluded by looking at potential new models for structuring TTOs given such shifts in priorities.