AUTM Advocacy Update

Tech Transfer – and “Semper Paratus”

By Mike Waring
February 26, 2020
Anyone who has served in the Coast Guard knows the Service motto: “Semper Paratus” — “Always Ready.”
Perhaps running a tech transfer office is the farthest thing from protecting our nation from drug dealers or terrorists, but the Coast Guard motto is one we can also use effectively in our day-to-day business.
As I am want to say, there are many policymakers and others who know next-to-nothing about what tech transfer offices do, the benefits they bring to our regions and the nation, and how difficult it is to move discoveries from the lab to the marketplace.
The first rule of advocacy is to explain to your audience how your business works. Without that underpinning, there is no way we can expect them or others to understand why they should care one way or the other about certain issues. Once we have shared that background, the ability and willingness of policymakers to support our view of those issues goes up dramatically.
But hey, you say, ‘we have government relations professionals at my university. Isn’t that THEIR job?’ Well, yes, but they need your expertise and data points to use as ammunition in those discussions. And that is where you need to be “always ready” to encourage that interaction and provide important perspectives. 
As you may know, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, the law that granted patent rights to universities and their inventors in order to incentivize the funding needed to commercialize discoveries. Since that legislation passed, the benefits to our nation have been huge: Trillions of dollars of economic growth; Millions of jobs; Thousands of patents and several hundred drugs now available. AUTM and allied groups are using this anniversary to encourage their members to remind policymakers that the work we do is crucial to American innovative strength.
I will be joining several of my AUTM colleagues at the AUTM Annual Meeting in San Diego to discuss how tech transfer offices play a key role in educating policymakers and the public about the value they bring. I hope many of you will attend to learn how you too can be “always ready.”
Mike Waring is the Chair of AUTM’s Advocacy and Alliances portfolio and Executive Director of Federal Relations for the University of Michigan.