Board Perspectives — July 12, 2023

Recognizing Differences and Capitalizing on Commonalities in Calgary

Almesha L. Campbell, PhD
AUTM Board Chair
Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development
Jackson State University

Attending this year’s Canadian Region Meeting was a welcome reminder of two things I love about AUTM being a global community: the opportunity to learn from tech transfer professionals who do things differently, and the equally valuable opportunity to leverage what we have in common.

Anyone participating in AUTM meetings, forums, and training will recognize differences in operating our tech transfer offices. Our policies, staffing models, budgets and capacities may be different, and where the TTO falls on the value chain within our institutions may also differ. However, as we engage with and learn from each other, we recognize those differences and adapt the best practices and lessons learned. We also capitalize on our commonalities.
Canada brings a unique perspective to AUTM as one of the association’s strongest member regions, evident in the vibrant knowledge sharing and networking that took place at the region meeting. (Shout out to the office that loaded up a van/bus and made the trip to Calgary as a team. I can imagine the debriefing that occurred on the journey back home. Also, shout out to the AUTM Canadian band for the live music and good vibes).
At the Meeting, I listened attentively to the presentations and the discussions that followed during the Q&A sessions or in the hallways during the breaks. These conversations are essential for discovering new perspectives and bonding over challenges we share—conversations that can continue via the AUTM e-groups, webinars, watercoolers and other networking events.
Meeting sessions such as “Barriers to Entry in Tech Transfer: Expanding Commercialization Opportunities” underscore the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion as common challenges—as well as the AUTM Board’s initiatives to promote an inclusive, accessible innovation ecosystem. How do we capitalize on those commonalities for the betterment of our profession and our association?
Similarly, small offices share some of the same challenges, regardless of country—with bandwidth and lack of resources being two of the most critical. One panel discussion in Calgary discussed how small TTOs are now using AI tools such as ChatGPT to assist with the time-consuming process of drafting content. How cool is that?! AUTM’s Small Office SIG and training such as AUTM University also help small offices bridge those resource gaps by sharing resources, best practices and lessons learned.
The need to advocate for a stronger innovation ecosystem is another challenge many nations share. AUTM does a great job advocating for the profession, with advocacy ramping up after the passing of the CHIPS and Science Act. While most of the association’s advocacy is US-centric, efforts are being made to provide a “template” that may be useful to other countries. We hope to continue engaging in conversations to advance the mission of AUTM and its members. With similar support—particularly a fully funded tech transfer provision—could transform tech transfer in Canada and globally.
In the meantime, I encourage us to keep sharing—our frustrations and our solutions—with our fellow AUTM Members. Let’s continue participating in e-groups, watercoolers, webinars and more to stay current and connected. Share your ideas with me and the rest of the AUTM Board as well—especially ideas for increasing engagement. We want to hear from you, no matter where in the world you live.  #TechTransferPride