Improving University Technology Transfer Outreach Efforts by Using Social Media

Technology transfer and licensing are integral to business creation and growth in the US. The push is on in the US to create more jobs, and largely through creating new companies, and expanding small-to-midcap businesses, especially those whose classic markets, such as services, are in upheaval as evidenced in the Federal Government services contractor community.

Historically, small businesses hire more people than large businesses. With so many new technologies available for development support, such as cloud computing and an expanding suite of SaaS offerings, the cost of infrastructure – often a major background cost to a firm – can be more effectively planned, budgeted and managed. This also saves time and energy in start-ups.

While the primary sources for licensable technology in the US are commercial entities, universities, and internal Federal Labs and Federally funded labs in academia, universities have the broadest array of commercializable technology, and the best ecosystems for support of spinouts/new starts.

Local spinouts/new starts are of importance since they bring jobs to the local economy. A university on the east coast would like the spinout in its back yard, not in California or Oregon, for example. The difference can be extremely significant in economic value — licensee fees and royalties of x value for a licensee based in and commercializing the licensed technology in California for example, versus jobs and all the flow-down economic impact of having that company in the back yard on the east coast.

But in surveying the university marketing landscape there seems to be a lack of effective outreach and marketing programs by the universities. Many have a pull approach — excellent sites, on-line databases of licensable technology, excellent reports on their achievements… but often little visibility. You have to know where to go to find the information. Of course, push and pull marketing and sales are relative to where you are standing and your point of view, but generally, the university’s name, reputation, and prior work are the pull. Yes, many universities attend technology and innovation events, and you can search sites, or even a patent portal. But it is still pull marketing.

In fact, looking at 200 universities` web sites, not a single one had technology transfer on the home page by mention or link you had to look to find it. I randomly looked at several universities Face book pages, and not a single one emphasized its technology transfer programs or achievements.

At the Customer 360 conference in LA, Gartner Group projected the impact of social media on customer relationship management — essentially marketing/sales. The impact on firms without social media programs is significant. Since technology transfer IS a very real multi-billion/year business, it ought to be a cornerstone in universities’ efforts, if not already implemented or planned