Innovation Ambassador Program

Innovation Ambassador Program: Empowering Faculty to Help You Help Them

With tech transfer offices expanding their roles and responsibilities across campus, it can be challenging to maintain a high level of faculty engagement in all departments. But what if you could train your faculty to be your front-line eyes and ears — essentially an extension of your office in the field? Learn how several universities have developed an Ambassador program at their institutions for training select faculty to provide their colleagues with peer-delivered information and guidance related to innovation and entrepreneurship across campus.

In each program, Ambassadors are trained to provide general information and resources about intellectual property, translation and commercialization of academic discoveries, entrepreneurship programs, and relevant institutional policies such as conflict of interest and IP policies. Ambassadors are trained to connect their departmental colleagues to appropriate institutional units for deeper levels of assistance and service (e.g., tech transfer office and entrepreneurship center), and are kept abreast of relevant local and regional growth initiatives. In addition to increased faculty engagement, Ambassadors provide rapid feedback to the various institutional units, helping to improve the overall innovation ecosystem across campus.

Attend this webinar for an overview of each panelist's distinctive Ambassador program, including a comparison of how these programs are tailored to the specific needs of different institutions. We will also discuss potential ways to develop these programs further and share lessons learned along the way. The session aims to inspire and enable other tech transfer offices to establish similar ambassador programs at their own institutions

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Learning Objectives:

  • Learn new approaches for increasing faculty awareness of innovation, commercialization, and entrepreneurship activities
  • Learn how to engage motivated faculty as innovation champions on campus
  • Learn how to create a similar program at your institution

Alan Bentley, Director of Technology Transfer, Vanderbilt University
Doug Hockstad, Assistant Vice President, Tech Launch Arizona
Devin Jones, Business Development Associate, Columbia University
Phil Swaney, Manager, Licensing and Strategic Initiatives, Vanderbilt University

Alan Bentley joined Vanderbilt University’s Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization in June 2011 and is responsible for directing all aspects of the office, focusing on faculty service and transactional efficiency. Prior to Vanderbilt, Alan served for five years as the Director of Commercialization for Cleveland Clinic Innovations, that health care center’s technology commercialization function. Before the Cleveland Clinic, he served as the Associate Director of the University of Virginia’s Patent Foundation.

Alan received his master’s degree in physics from the University of Virginia, and separate bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and in physics from Carnegie Mellon University. Alan is a registered patent agent and is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Association of University Technology Managers.

Doug Hockstad serves as the Assistant Vice President of the University of Arizona's technology commercialization organization, Tech Launch Arizona. Doug joined UA, initially managing the IP and licensing function, with more than 25 years’ experience in high tech markets. His career began in the software market, including both established company and startup experience, and moved on to tech transfer at the University of Michigan, last serving as Associate Director of Software & Engineering Licensing with a primary responsibility for managing software and other copyright-related intellectual property created across the entire U of M campus. Over the last three years, Doug served on the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) Board of Directors, helping to set the strategic direction of the AUTM organization.

Devin Jones, PhD, joined the Business Development team at Columbia Technology Ventures in 2022. He manages a portfolio of industry partners with the goal of accelerating the development of Columbia’s early-stage biomedical technologies, focusing on precision therapeutics. As manager of Columbia Technology Ventures’ new Ambassador Program, he works closely with the larger CTV team to recruit the inaugural cohort of Ambassadors, design the program launch, and organize the program’s ongoing events. Prior to his current role, Devin worked as a Columbia Technology Ventures Fellow, responsible for initial technological assessments of Columbia faculty inventions, with a focus on connecting emerging startups with venture funding. During this time, his doctoral work focused on RNA binding protein function at the synapse and the development of preclinical models of severe forms of epilepsy, with the goal of advancing gene therapy interventions. Devin holds a PhD in Genetics and Development from Columbia University and an MS in Biomedical Science - Cancer Genetics from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, UTHealth Houston. He completed his undergraduate degree in Human Biology at The University of Texas at Austin.

Phil Swaney has been at the Vanderbilt University Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization since 2016. He is responsible for managing and training Licensing Analysts at CTTC, in addition to handling a broad portfolio of technologies in the engineering and physical sciences. He also leads the Innovation Ambassador Program and Contract Compliance group for CTTC. Phil received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Vanderbilt University, where his research focused on the development of needle-sized surgical robots for the treatment of diseases in the lung and brain. He completed his undergraduate training in Mechanical Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.