By Katie Young Morris and Naoufel Testaouni
As project scouts for TandemLaunch, we are looking at University tech transfer websites on a regular basis. When we saw Jeff Fearn’s advice for TTO’s to make more information available on their websites, we decided to take it a step further and highlight the common ways that website licensing listings fail to connect the right people to the right licensing opportunities.
1. Make your search results as user friendly as possible. Step one is to make sure that your titles are clear. Step two is to take advantage of the power of a one sentence summary description that appears with your title in the search results. While not always needed, this additional information makes it easier for people to get to the technologies they have interest in more quickly and efficiently, without overlooking technologies that do not immediately appear relevant. Search providers like Google do this for exactly the same reason: titles don’t always give enough information. You can further optimize the functionality of your searches by making sure that the text following each title gives as clear a picture of what the technology does as possible.
The University of British Columbia TTO’s site provides a great example of this in action:
2. Don’t tell us your technology is ‘new’. Tell us why. Don’t worry, we know your technology is unique, novel, new, fast, superior, just plain better than other solutions. The most important information individuals need to evaluate a technology are the concrete results that can be compared to similar solutions. Provide comparisons to similar technologies when possible. This specificity will make your opportunity descriptions more meaningful and attention grabbing.
If you indicate that the invention improves efficiency, indicate ‘by how much’. We have given an example from Queen’s University’s PARTEQ Innovation below.
Better yet? Provide image, video, or audio results. Yissum Technology Transfer (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), for example, makes these kind of demonstration materials nearly the first thing that appears in their summaries.
The bottom line is that nothing will sell a technology better than results. For unfamiliar technologies, a brief video demonstrating how the technology functions will make a big difference in communicating what an opportunity is all about (costly video production is not required).
3. Important, but often forgotten information: Most university TTOs understand the importance of clearly labeling, categorizing, and describing their technologies, including listing potential applications, advantages and the problem solved (do all of these things). Some specifics that are often missing and should strengthen your sales case are:
- Patent numbers and types – These provide more detailed information on the technology and the scope of its protection.
- Patent filing dates – These place the technology in the timeline of related technologies.
- Publications – These provide more detailed information on a technology and future development.
- Inventors’ names – A quick search on an inventor can help give a sense of the inventors’ availability, similar work they are doing that may be of interest, and additional relevant publications.
Companies that are going to license your technology will need this information before making a decision. If you don’t have ready access to this information, consider revising your university’s disclosure or patent management process to ensure it is at your fingertips in the future. The University of Rochester Center for Entrepreneurship is an example of a TTO that is doing a good job of providing this information.
Even better, use some of the extra time you saved by reducing unnecessary inquiries, and provide direct links.
4. Differentiate investment types. A technology status description is a powerful way to help the right kind of investor tune into your technology. Some individuals and companies will be interested in early stage technologies, others will want some kind of proof of concept, and others will be interested in fully developed technologies. UChicago Tech has one of the best methods we have seen to quickly summarize a technology’s development status.
5. Stop gatekeeping. While TTOs need to be sensitive to what information should be kept confidential at different stages of a technology’s development, gatekeeping for any other reason is a waste of your time. Some TTOs provide very scant information about their technologies. Our best guesses as to why are that they lack time, want to track interest in specific technologies, or want to get the opportunity to pitch certain technologies. But if you don’t provide enough information about your technology, anyone who contacts you about it will not have a clear picture of what their interest in the technology is. That means wasted time with people who are not going to license a technology anyway, and a distorted picture of what interest there really is in a technology. You also risk missing out on people who might be interested in an opportunity, but never discover it is available.
Look at the recurrent questions you are fielding and consider systematically answering those questions on your website . If you can provide the information in response to a technology inquiry, there is likely no reason not to have it available online. The minimal upfront time invested will save you the time of answering requests from people who only have a vague sense that a technology might be of interest, freeing you up to invest more time in relationships where there is concrete interest.