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21 Dec

Technology Transfer Officer- A science PhD’s career option beyond the research bench

Have you ever wondered if you (or your research team) ever invent something that has direct translational value what steps will be necessary to actually bring it out in the market? As you can guess it is a long and complex process and some of the crucial parts of this process will be applying for patent(s), dealing with intellectual property law and licensing of the technology for commercialization.

This is where a technology transfer officer gets involved. It is one of those rare opportunities which is right there in your university, and can give you an exposure to the world outside academic research without even leaving your university. The purpose of a university’s Office of Technology Transfer is to manage intellectual property resulting from research conducted in the university and facilitate the commercialization of these innovations.

Almost every major research institute, university and research hospital employs science PhDs as Technology Transfer Officers. Licensing of technologies are a major source of revenue and universities wish to see return on their investment in research. According to the Association of University Technology Manager’s (AUTM) “Licensing activity survey FY2008” (2010) a total of 3,208 patents were granted to university research personnel and licensing fees of technologies from institutions of higher education generated a total of about $2.5 billion in the fiscal year 2008. In the same year research faculties across the nation created 595 new companies utilizing the technologies they invented. And all this happened through the technology transfer offices of these research organizations.

As a technology transfer officer your goal will be to identify promising technologies, manage intellectual property (IP) portfolio, search for opportunities of licensing these inventions and facilitate in foundation of start-ups based on university’s inventions.

It keeps you at the forefront of new innovations coming out of multiple labs and offers an ideal blend of academic research and business development. As you will be working in close collaboration with the inventors, this career will enable you to be involved with the commercial aspects of a technology sector without being completely detached from academia.

This position offers you the ideal platform for a science PhD to develop skills which will help them to transition to other careers. As you will constantly dealing with USPTO submissions, managing patent portfolios and patent deadlines it will give you the basic knowledge required for IP law career. Besides that you will be working with startups that are being spun off from the university’s invention. This will offer you the opportunity to acquire business strategy and business development knowledge. So this can also be a great pathway to transition into business development roles in industry or a career in IP law.

Key points to remember

  1. The role of technology transfer officer will give a science PhD an opportunity to be involved in intellectual property and business development without being completely detached from academic research
  2. You will be responsible for identifying new technologies, managing their intellectual property and facilitating licensing and commercialization of inventions
  3. A technology transfer officer gets to learn and be involved with multiple cutting edge inventions
  4. This position offers the opportunity to make significant contributions in commercialization of the latest inventions from academia
  5. This role is ideal for science PhDs who wish to transition later into either IP law or business development related careers in technology based industries