Headley Column: Technology Transfer at Csu

Note to Editors: Todd Headley is associate director for Technology Transfer at CSU Ventures Inc. and business development director at MicroRx, the university’s infectious disease Supercluster.

I have been invited to write a monthly column discussing university technology transfer in general and the impact of technology transfer at Colorado State University locally and globally.

In doing so, I will have the opportunity to describe what technology transfer really means as we use the term, how technology transfer occurs at CSU and why the process at CSU is an innovative and novel approach.

I hope to talk about a number of subjects that are confusing and perhaps misunderstood by many not living in the technology transfer world. Terms such as inventions, patents, trademarks, copyright, intellectual property, licensing, innovation, start-up companies and venture capital are frequently used by those involved in technology transfer.

At Colorado State University, we then add another layer of organizations and terminology such as CSU Ventures, MicroRx, NeoTREX, Cenergy and Superclusters to the lexicon. We will spend some time describing and talking about how all of these pieces fit together as part of technology transfer in general and at Colorado State University and in the community specifically.

To begin, we can take a look at a traditional definition of technology transfer that is taken from the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) website (www.autm.net), and in the course of the next few months, I will try to compare and contrast the CSU approach.  

Technology transfer is the process of transferring scientific findings from one organization to another for the purpose of further development and commercialization. The process typically includes:

-Identifying new technologies

-Protecting technologies through patents and copyrights

-Forming development and commercialization strategies such as marketing and licensing to existing private sector companies or creating new start-up companies based on the technology

The website also provides the following more traditional reasons why universities engage in technology transfer:

-Recognition for discoveries made at the institution

-Compliance with federal regulations

-Attraction and retention of talented faculty

-Local economic development

-Attraction of corporate research support

-Licensing revenue to support further research and education

The priority that is given to each of these factors varies from institution to institution. The ultimate benefits of technology transfer, however, are the public benefits derived from the products that reach the market and the jobs that result from the development and sale of products.

It is this last paragraph that emphasizes the critical importance and impact of university technology transfer globally, and it aligns fully with the leadership of CSU President Larry Edward Penley and the university to set itself apart from all other institutions by speeding technology to the global marketplace.  

As best stated by Dr. Penley, "CSU and other research universities must take responsibility for focusing their research capability on the major global challenges," he said. "The essential elements of economic prosperity have changed. They are linked intimately with the prosperity of the American research university – with its essential contributions to human and intellectual capital. And it is human and intellectual capital that will retain this country’s global competitiveness and the competitiveness of this region of the country."

Dr. Penley’s remarks are a perfect segue into the next discussion around how CSU and CSU Ventures have organized and resourced themselves to take full advantage of that capital.