Advocacy Takes Center Stage at AUTM Annual Meeting
Mike Waring
AUTM Advocacy & Alliances Coordinator

Those who attended the 2022 AUTM Annual Meeting in New Orleans may have noticed two big takeaways:
  1. How great it was to meet in-person again!
  2. How advocacy is taking on a greater role in the work that AUTM does for its Members.
From the opening Fireside Chat with Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alejandra Castillo to the discussions by AUTM leadership to sessions on hot issues in Washington and the future of Bayh-Dole, AUTM Members came away understanding the need for them to play a role in their own futures in the tech transfer profession.
At my advocacy panel, “Get the Latest on Tech Transfer Advocacy Issues”, we delved into many of the major issues facing tech transfer, including the recent Department of Energy’s Determination of Exceptional Circumstances (DOE DEC). Thanks to critical perspective from AUTM and other allies on the unintended consequences of that DEC, it now appears DOE is reversing its initial requirement to approve the license transfers. More work is ongoing on this front.
We also looked at positive efforts within competitiveness legislation that might provide – for the first time – direct support for tech transfer offices, as well as assistance for startups to receive more support. Those bills, now in conference between the House and Senate, also provide a new requirement for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to track diversity among patentees that was supported by AUTM. This requirement will enable us to better track the participation of women and minorities in the commercialization process. The discussion in New Orleans was lively, and attendees could see how decisions in Washington can directly affect their own jobs in tech transfer.
At another session, former NIST Director Walt Copan discussed the many challenges that lie ahead for the Bayh-Dole Act. This legislation must be protected from a vocal minority who continue to seek to weaken this crucial linchpin of the American innovation ecosystem.
As always, the key for tech transfer offices is to develop and maintain strong relationships with their federal relations office. These university advocates have direct access to policymakers and can use the data and stories from their tech transfer offices to educate Congress and key agencies on the opportunities and threats that various bills and regulations can have on our ability to move discoveries from the lab to the marketplace.
We hope AUTM Members will continue to provide important information their university can use to make the case for the work we all do.
American competitiveness depends upon a robust economy with new technologies, new drugs and new discoveries. If there was any message in New Orleans, it was that – pure and simple.