Advocacy Toolkit

The Politics of Advocacy: Tech Transfer Edition


One of AUTM’s key activities is to keep an eye on tech transfer issues gathering steam in Washington. One of your roles as a tech transfer leader is to monitor those issues (with AUTM’s help) and bring them to the attention of the appropriate people in your institution when action is needed. The key players are likely to be your Vice President of Research (VPR) or equivalent, and your institution’s federal relations staff.
As a TTO leader, you may already have a strong relationship with your VPR. In the area of advocacy, you can build on this relationship by updating him or her on important activity in Washington relating to tech transfer.  When new laws or regulations are proposed, share examples that illustrate how these could directly impact the operations of your TTO and the institution more generally; and urge your institutional leadership to adopt a position that favors tech transfer with respect to the proposed laws or regulations.
Some VPRs may be okay with a tech transfer office acting on its own in advocacy, communicating directly with the relevant members of Congress. But be sure to coordinate any such communications first with your institution’s federal relations office, explaining the challenge or opportunities at hand and urging the institution to put that issue on its list of “to-dos” in Washington.  
Most federal relations teams rely on information provided daily by national associations, such as the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU).  That’s why AUTM works closely with these and other organizations to engage collectively on important tech transfer issues. When federal relations officers hear concerns raised both by their national associations and those on their own campuses, they’re even more motivated to engage.

If you are an American citizen, you have every right to communicate directly with federal lawmakers or regulators.  However, if you do so, you must plainly state that your words represent your personal opinion, not those of your institution (don’t use your institutional letterhead).   This approach can limit the impact of your communication.  But if done correctly, it can raise issues with key lawmakers that otherwise would not be brought to the table.  Even personal communications should be reported to your federal relations team. AUTM has drafted a sample letter template that you can use, below.

As issues relevant to tech transfer come up in Washington, AUTM will draft up sample communication that you can modify as needed and send to your VPR and/or federal relations team to encourage them to advocate regarding these issues, as well as sample letters that you as an individual can send directly to your Congressional representatives.

Sample Communications
A Letter to Your Federal Relations Team Supporting Appropriations for the CHIPS and Science Act
A Letter to Your VPR Supporting Appropriations for the NSF
Letter to U.S. Congressional Appropriations Subcommittee Leadership Urging the Funding of Accelerating Research Translate (ART) and other Tech Transfer Programs