From Traditional Tech Licensing To Entrepreneurial Tech Commercialization

by Norris F. Krueger, Brian A. Cummings, and Steven P. Nichols

Norris F. Krueger

Max Planck Institute for Economics, Entrepreneurship Northwest External Research Fellow (MPI); Founder (EN), Boise, Idaho, USA

Brian A. Cummings

University of Utah, Executive Director, Technology Commercialization, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Steven P. Nichols

Cockrell School of Engineering, University of Texas, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director, Chair of Free Enterprise, Austin, TX, USA

+ university spinouts in three years. Ninety-four percent still alive. Lowest cost per spinout in the U.S. The “book” on successful technology transfer is to find multiple ways to substitute bottom-up entrepreneurial approaches for top-down bureaucratic mechanisms. However, few programs successfully manage the transition to entrepreneurial mode. How did they succeed where so many do not?

We present an overview of a new University of Utah program where spinouts have skyrocketed (stats above). We share the key facets of their multiple entrepreneurial approaches that converged on their current success, supported by theory and evidence from other successful programs that will give the audience critical lessons learned and a deeper understanding of how other institutions can deploy this constellation of entrepreneurial mechanisms. How does Utah (and other top programs) put entrepreneurs first? How can we replicate their success?

Etzkowitz (2008) shows that despite the press and PR, the median technology transfer office (TTO) loses money—probably more than is usually known. Only a handful are successful. How do they differ?

We offer here a set of key principles for successful technology commercialization, illustrated by a very recent exemplar, the University of Utah. As opposed to a case study where the story unfolds and key best practices identified en route, this essay builds a model for successful technology commercialization organized into five key elements. For each element, we then describe the Utah model in those terms, followed by lessons for application elsewhere.

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