AUTM Updates

Keeping Pace with the Evolution of Technology Transfer

For 30 years, the AUTM Licensing Survey has been used by universities, research institutions, hospitals, and state and federal legislators to qualify and quantify data about technology transfer, each using the information in their own unique way. In that time the survey has chronicled a whirlwind of change across the tech transfer landscape, and this year’s data reflect continued “churn” in the industry in response to recent challenges. These ever-changing industry dynamics make it even more important for tech transfer offices to use metrics like those in this survey to measure and demonstrate our value.

In the past few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated some existing challenges, such as the need for tech transfer professionals to “do more with less” due to staff shortages, which may resolve as pandemic recovery continues. The pandemic has also introduced new workplace paradigms—such as remote and hybrid employees—that likely are here to stay.

We as an industry are facing stiff headwinds, but if we can tack successfully, we can weather the storm and emerge stronger and better prepared for the future. The AUTM Licensing Survey and related tools like the STATT database will help by providing access to meaningful and practical data—allowing users to compare their tech transfer productivity metrics with those of their peers, as well look for areas where they can improve. This year’s survey continues to utilize benchmarking as a component of the report. AUTM is thrilled that the survey makes this type of benchmarking possible, and we are always looking for ways to improve the survey.  

Ideally, Licensing Survey data should facilitate peer comparisons defined by institutional type (such as research hospitals or Minority Serving Institutions) or area of research (such as agriculture, healthcare, or social innovation). That’s why the AUTM Licensing Survey has added supplementary questions to explore these areas in the future versions of the survey.

The Licensing Survey’s foundational metrics—invention disclosures, patent applications, licensing agreements and start-ups—are all key contributors to impactful technology transfer, but we know other factors are also important. That’s why the 2020 and 2021 surveys also have included supplementary questions about open-source licenses, inter-institutional agreements and patent cooperation treaty applications.

Another important and increasingly requested data set impactful to tech transfer involves demographic diversity. Being innovative isn’t limited to any particular race, gender, or other demographic variable, but those variables can help identify shortfalls in innovation ecosystems—which are most productive when their populations are as inclusive and diverse as possible. There are strong arguments for including demographic data into tech transfer benchmarking. But it won’t be easy. The preliminary questions we’ve started asking about inventor demographics suggest most institutions aren’t even collecting this information. That needs to change.

The Licensing Survey and the tech transfer profession have come a long way in the last 30 years, and both will continue to grow on a global scale even in the face of challenge. With your help, AUTM will continue to stay ahead of the trends in technology transfer, while growing and educating our membership. 

John Miner
Chair, AUTM Metrics and Surveys Portfolio