Add EDI to Your Agenda in Austin

Sadhana Chitale, PhD, MBA
New York University's Technology Opportunities and Ventures

Megan Aanstoos, PhD, RTTP
Kentucky Commercialization Ventures

As newly appointed Directors on the AUTM Board, we are looking forward to the 2023 AUTM Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas! We are especially keen to learn about the EDI-related efforts ongoing at our Member institutions—many of which will be featured in Annual Meeting programming.

While some of AUTM’s efforts in the area of EDI can be found on the AUTM website here and here, the Annual Meeting in Austin is the place to learn from the broader community on how to develop initiatives aimed at fostering more awareness, advocacy, and action to address systemic inequities and reducing barriers to innovation and to the technology transfer profession.

Kicking us off on Monday at 1:45 pm, Alexandra de Paz, Mandy Gettler, and Maria Rahmany will inform us on what has worked and what has not to improve inventor demographics. Their session will talk about collecting data, implementing actions, and engaging more women and underrepresented innovators. We are looking forward to hearing some of their practical advice on how to bring these to our institutions, without inadvertently causing any Title IX conflicts.

From there, roll on over to Megan Aanstoos’s session where Hope Shimabuku, Malcolm Skingle and Tarianna Stewart share their thoughts on promoting EDI in the workplace and what they are doing to help move the needle on creating welcoming, inclusive environments where employees are empowered to contribute and influence the inclusive innovation ecosystems being created. Also consider attending Laura Schoppe’s roundtable on collecting and understanding EDI metrics from your university. Both sessions will launch at 3:45 pm, so you’ll have to choose—but make a note to watch the recording of whichever one you aren’t able to attend.

On Tuesday, join Lisa Mueller and Aileen Dingus at 10:45 a.m. to discuss how to make the path to commercialization of inventions more equitable. End your day by learning how to embrace neurodiversity in your workforce with expert guest speaker Haley Moss and a panel of distinguished guests.

On Wednesday morning, at 10:45 a.m. we will once again have concurrent EDI-themed sessions: Patricia Bianco will lead a discussion on expanding opportunities for entrepreneurship and technology commercialization at HBCUs, and Karen Maples will explore how the newly released AUTM EDI Toolkit can be used in your tech transfer office. Finally, plan to wrap up your Annual Meeting EDI experience with a roundtable discussion on whether technology transfer offices really cater to the population we are serving.  We expect these discussions to be thoughtful, meaningful, and actionable in terms of setting out best practices and focused on building a commitment to cultural transformation in practice, policy and processes.

We can’t possibly list all the sessions in the EDI space, so we encourage you to look for yourself and to take a moment to consider thoughtful, actionable things you can bring back to your institution to support inclusive innovation and further AUTM’s vision of “an inclusive and collaborative community that advances innovation for a better world.” Thank you for joining us on this journey!

There is an evident need to still further increase equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) compounded throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic and now in our post pandemic world. At the past AUTM conference in New Orleans, LA, we finally had a chance to reunite which strongly felt long overdue, and some of us joined in-person for the first time. When confined at our respective homes we made the world smaller by connecting virtually with each other either nearby or across the globe. Now, the EDI Committee is working to expand our world again by celebrating the AUTM community’s diverse international membership.

Our EDI Committee has made it a mission to be more inclusive of our fellow Members from around the world. Along with a focus of fostering more insight from diverse sources within our TT field. Which has been utilized to offer better strategies, hence leading to more effective solutions in similarly related professional sectors as shared in our latest AUTM EDI Toolkit. With that said, let’s get to know one another, from our professional experiences to our personal heritages, cultural traditions, diverse backgrounds, origin stories and much more.  

At the 2022 AUTM Annual Meeting in New Orleans, the EDI Committee collaborated with Casmir Jones law firm to sponsor and display a world map at the firm’s booth in the exhibit hall. Attendees passing by were invited to place a push pin into the country their home TTO.  This intentionally sparked new conversations among AUTM Members who usually would not have crossed paths while at the Meeting, and the booth buzzed with excited descriptions of different countries and traditions.

This concept was so successful that AUTM will be scaling it up for the upcoming 2023 Annual Meeting in Austin, to highlight global membership representation. For an "icebreaker" activity, the EDI Committee again will encourage guests and attendees to mark their home TTO countries on a map, but this time the push pins will be color coded to represent different levels of professional TT experience. The map will also display pins for current and new board members, and others instrumental to the AUTM community, including guests from the new AUTM on the Air podcast series. The podcasts have been invaluable for showcasing the professional journeys and personal stories of how TT professionals from around the world have separately arrived in this unique intersection of innovation, commercialization and law.  

We hope that this will be a stimulating, yet fun opportunity to expand your worldwide network and acquire new skill sets from the international perspective of fellow AUTM Members and attendees. There will be games and competitions, discovery of TTOs, cultural celebration, and prizes for those making the most networking connections.  You will definitely enjoy a global TT atmosphere around the world map. We encourage all of you to showcase your own heritage, strike up chats with fellow members, and provide input toward AUTM’s overall mission. It should be emphasized that AUTM members are a rich trove of untapped potential from various regions of the globe, that will continue to increase AUTM’s global impact.

Looking ahead, our EDI committee would like to see this concept replicated on the AUTM website through an interactive digital map of TTOs around the world.  Therefore, a permanent online map would supplement the existing Member directory, adding dimension to the concept of global technology transfer.