Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jobs in Technical Communication: Consider Technology Transfer

Like reading patents? Talking to inventors? Making deals? Marketing the newest ideas? A potential career field for technical communicators who enjoy working in innovation is technology transfer.

What is Technology Transfer?

Technology transfer happens when an idea, method, or concept is licensed to another entity. A pharmaceutical lab might license its formula to a drug manufacturer; an inventor might sell his idea to a major manufacturer; a kitchen table jam company partner with a large food manufacturer.

Technology transfer helps inventors move their product from a sketch and a patent to being ready for commercial sale. SteriShoe, for example, had to be patented and then marketed. This work is called technology transfer.

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Larger companies, institutions, and organizations use technology transfer offices to help move innovations from a lab to the marketplace. These offices hire people who are creative and good communicators to develop to-market plans for new inventions.

Technology Transfer Offices

Universities, governments, and private companies are opening offices that help inventors and entrepreneurs. Most research-oriented organizations have a technology transfer office. This office takes patentable or patented ideas and markets these ideas to other companies, labs, or research organizations.

Technology transfer offices are usually located in research organizations, but, the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center, established by Congress in 1989, helps link industry with federal labs, universities, and researchers. The NTTC is located on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University, in West Virginia.

Employees in technology transfer offices perform many tasks, including marketing, making connections between research projects and industry contacts, translating patent language to plain English, and working out the details of licensing agreements and other contracts.

These offices need people who can read patents, understand rules of disclosure, write well, know contract law, and who can manage many projects at once.

Jobs in Technical Transfer

Following are some typical job titles and job descriptions used in technology transfer. Use these when searching for jobs in tech transfer.

Technology Licensing Associate

Technology licensing associates work in technology transfer offices at universities or research-and-development firms. Associates track of licensing agreements, use databases to track information, and work on technology education programs.
Associates work closely with faculty and inventors to prepare disclosure documents, conduct research, and translate complex information about new technologies to plain English so that it appeals to investors. Associates negotiate or sit in on negotiations of licensing agreements and often draft agreements that reflect negotiated terms.
  • Bachelors degree, background, or interest in science/medicine/computer technology
  • Written and oral communication skills  (continued on next page)
  • Able to communicate complex issues clearly
  • Able to communicate complex information simply
  • Able to draft clauses for agreements or contracts
  • Negotiation skills
  • Familiarity with patents, contracts, disclosure statements
  • Able to work independently
  • Must be organized and able to multitask

Small Business Incubator Associate or Manager

Small business incubators hire people who can help their clients or tenants launch businesses. People with knowledge about various business organizational entities, contracts law, or intellectual property disclosure rules would bring useful knowledge to this position. 
Incubator associates and managers choose and interact with clients or tenants of the incubator. Incubator associates do not give legal advice but provide direction to clients about experts they should consult, coordinate mentorship relationships, and provide clients with resources for business planning, intellectual property assessment, loans, grants, and other start-up needs.
Associates and managers of student incubators seek grant funding, schedule educational programming for students, and develop and maintains contacts with local businesses.

  • Bachelors degree or higher; MBA or small business experience
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Interpersonal communication skills to build relationships
  • Grant writing
  • Contract management
  • Marketing skills
  • Educational programming experience
  • Negotiation skills
  • Networking skills

Patent Program Coordinator

Patent programs help people who cannot afford to hire a patent attorney or a patent agent with initial patent work. Patent program coordinators triage clients’ intellectual property needs, determining if they need help with patent, trademark, or copyright, and find an appropriate patent agent or attorney to do an initial assessment of the patentable invention.
The patent program will do prior art searches and provide patenting advice to inventors. The coordinator schedules appointments, assists with research, tracks deadlines, drafts documents for review, and maintains the program’s educational programming.
  • Bachelors degree or higher
  • Experience with intellectual property
  • Able to conduct intellectual property research
  • Able to communicate complex issues clearly
  • Able to communicate complex information simply
  • Able to work with people with no understanding of intellectual property
  • Must be organized and able to multitask

Compliance Manager

An organization’s compliance office ensures that organizations that participate in research and development are complying with the terms of any grant funding and any local, state, or federal regulations that apply.
Some compliance managers focus on federal ethical rules that apply to research involving people or animals. Other compliance managers focus on financial aspects of complying with research and development.

  • Bachelors degree
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Able to manage budgets
  • Able to communicate in writing and orally
  • Able to draft clauses for agreements or contracts
  • Negotiation skills
  • Familiarity with federal laws related to research with humans and animals
  • Must be organized and able to multitask

Useful Websites

Alliance of Technology Transfer Professionals
Association of University Technology Managers
Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center

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