Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Initial Thoughts: Technology Transfer Society

Global meeting in DC last weekend where I also got to visit our tax dollars again... or what's left of them? ;)

For old fans of “Laugh-In”, my reaction to this year's global meeting of the Technology Transfer Society was.... “verrrrrrry interesting....” ;)

Good papers & speeches but the REAL fun was in the "other" meetings... the hallway chats and the private huddles. Got to chat up some pretty high-powered folks both in T2S and in government (Tekes, NSF, et al.) As Yogi said, "You hear a lot by listening."

Also had an informative meetup with Peter Fischer in Crapo's office. Thanks, Peter!)

My preso went very well (whew!) – – a great co-author [she had just returned from speaking to the UN on entrep!] Despite her massive jet lag & my usual "norris-isms", we managed to blow a few minds. WHY we blew some minds reflects the “verrry interesting” part. The audience at T2S<>

a) the top researchers of tech transfer and the

b) top thought leaders in the T2 world (like the tech transfer star at France's NASA -what a cool cat!)

Bottom line on most of the audience:

  1. they all recite the mantra “we must be much more entrepreneurial” and

  2. they have no idea what they really means or how to do it

  3. BUT have open minds, making this a big, big opportunity for entrepreneurship experts*

  4. AND it remains clear that the tiny number of truly successful tech transfer programs** are all characterized by the kind of entrepreneurial culture & ecosystem that we can only dream about. (Though, alas, we COULD create that IF we chose to do so.)

    * p.s.: again, look at the U of U's success - my case study is at

So.... what an opportunity for the entrepreneurship experts there to present on how we can move in that direction (and diagnostics for why we can't as yet...)

** it's also a huge opportunity for any tech transfer/commercialization program that chooses to go this route! (and diagnostics for why we can't as yet...)

My presentation built on the intersection of two things you'd like:

First, can you imagine mechanisms where all the different states' innovation councils & tech councils compared notes? I've been asked to help develop a major study that will talk to all of them. (Given I already have three requests to do comparative studies of local innovation systems/entrepreneurial ecosystems to compare Idaho to the Basque country, Oregon & North Carolina.. why not expand the scope?)

But what will we look for? Especially, how will we assess whether they are doing the right things the right way..and for the right reasons? Maybe we look to what they'd never do & philosophies they embrace?

Second, so where are some new clues? What do approaches like the "lean startup model" and "Startup Weekend" have to tell us about what it REALLY takes to grow entrepreneurs?? (Hint: Bureaucracies freak out... and entrepreneurs get energized!) It turns out these approaches are VERY informative... Fun watching the audience reactions to concepts like Startup Weekend, TechStars & Y-Combinator!)

P.S.: Anyone interested in the councils project? Should be serious fun.

The PDF of the slides is here - please feel free to comment. I'd love your feedback!

Our Major Conclusion -- supported by the best minds (well, partly stolen from the best minds...LOL) So....

#1 Best Practice for Tech Transfer,
#1 Best Practice for Tech Commercialization, AND
#1 Best Practice for Entrepreneur-Led Economic Development in general?

Grow the entrepreneurial mindset.

That requires the right 'training' (the right training done the right way) and

Also requires supportive local communities & ecosystem. (likewise, the right things done the right way.. and for the right reasons)

Takes considerable expertise to design & deliver, as the 'mindset' part is far more critical than just skills. But, that talent is at our fingertips; all we need to do is ask. And. most of what we can do is free/cheap; the rest is eminently fundable (I've already had multiple discussions with funders.)

Seems simple but not for the faint-hearted or the inexperienced ;)

Eagerly awaiting your feedback!



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