Have no defined policy or procedure at all on commercializing
Defining the groundrules, requirements, and procedures could cause a
lot of debate and disagreement. Allow faculty members to
creative. (The university’s rights and responsibilities can always
be figured out later if you need to.)
If you have a technology policy and a procedure, make sure nobody
in the university community actually understands what it is.
Complexity is good.
If you have a technology policy and a procedure, allow word to
get around campus that the department heads, academic senate, and/or
administration view the commercialization of university-generated
technology as not quite in keeping with the university's academic
If you have a technology policy and a procedure, apply them
Nobody's going to notice if certain researchers or other
participants seem to get a "good deal" while others seem to have a
far tougher time of it. If you are the Licensing Officer, amuse
yourself with your ability to influence what happens. Be arbitrary.
Or sometimes you can have fun simply by dragging your feet. Most
people will get fatigued and turn their attention to less arduous
tasks. (Besides, this "window of opportunity" stuff probably doesn't
mean too much anyway.)
If you have a technology policy and a procedure, they should not
be equitable. An equitable commercialization policy typically will allocate equal
shares from successful technology commercialization (1) to the
faculty researcher(s), (2) to the department of the researcher(s),
and (3) to the university. Cutting out one or two of these entities
entirely — or, alternatively, severely restricting any benefit that
might go to the faculty researcher(s) — is usually enough to prevent
any type of ongoing program at your university.
Limit the licensing of university technology to large companies
entrepreneurial companies are generally more
flexible, more innovative in their thinking, have vastly lower costs
of operation, and far greater incentives to make a novel technology
work in the marketplace, young companies are fragile entities that
will almost surely require greater attention if they are to survive
long enough to stand any chance of succeeding. The fact that the
potential pay-off from a start-up can be enormous should not
influence your university's thinking. Stick with licensing to large
established companies because the record demonstrates that large
companies always succeed.
Find a single out-licensing model and stick with it for all
The process for licensing medical technology or biotech is familiar
enough to most university licensing offices. Why not simply apply
this same approach to commercializing technology from your
engineering schools (all of them), to university generated software,
and to your business school (just kidding, of course; nothing coming
out of your business school could possibly be the basis for
launching a new company because it isn't technology, right?).
Don't bother with understanding "market-based" royalty rates,
third-party working relationships, or generally observed business
Terms and Conditions.
You are the University. If you deign to mess around with
commercialization at all, then you will damn well call the tune. If
your potential collaborators don't want to collaborate as you
dictate, you probably wouldn't have wanted to get involved with them
Do not allocate university resources to pay for stuff like
intellectual property protection,
market analysis, writing a
business plan, or getting knowledgeable individuals involved either
as advisors or as paid professional consultants. Especially don't do
this up front. It won't add value to your deal.
This stuff is all window dressing anyway. Who needs it!
Never allow researchers from other schools who have made it big
as founders of successful young companies to visit your campus. Or,
if they do visit, make sure that they don't actually talk to your
Why seek trouble? Who knows what strange tales might be told.
Keep those folks in your business school away from the
researchers in your science faculty, the staff of your engineering
schools, and anybody in your university's hospital. Gosh, imagine
what a mess it could be if they each had part of a powerful
Never, never develop relationships between your university and
venture capitalists, consultants, or lawyers and
accountants who are involved in real-world deal-flow. Speaking
engagements are a no-no.
If an entrepreneur-wannabe from your faculty somehow gets
through the previous 12 barriers, make sure that he or she cannot
get time freed up to work as an employee, a consultant, or a founder
involved with a start-up.
Keep 'em in the classroom where they belong. After all, what could
possibly be learned in a start-up technology company? (And that goes
double for students.)
OK, if somehow all your planning fails and someone somehow
creates a company, makes it wildly successful and either sells it
for a big pay-off or takes it through an astronomical IPO, do
everything in your power not to allow them back on campus to talk
about it. If the word ever got around, somebody else might actually try to do
it with their promising new technology. And then, you'd just never
be able to stop it.
Some time after the university accepts equity in return for
licensing technology into a promising young company, make sure that
the local paper writes an article questioning the propriety of
licensing technology in exchange for equity rather than for a
royalty (after all, it's simply not traditional, is it?!).
Establish an unofficial (but inviolate) rule that any
equity-based licensing of university technology must go through an
intermediary who will control the terms of the deal (and who just
happens to be an alumnus and long-term donor and who, magically,
will always seem to end up with an equity piece of each such