1. Have no defined
policy or procedure at all on commercializing university technology.
Defining the groundrules, requirements, and procedures could cause a lot of
debate and disagreement. Allow faculty members to be
(The university’s rights and responsibilities can always be figured out later if
you need to.)
2. 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,
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 mission.
4. If you have a
technology policy and a procedure, apply them inconsistently.
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
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.)
5. If you have a technology policy and a procedure, they should not be
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.
6. Limit the licensing of university technology to large companies only.
entrepreneurial companies are generally more flexible, more
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.
7. 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?).
8. 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 anyway.
9. Do not allocate university resources to pay for stuff like
intellectual property protection,
writing a business plan, or
getting knowledgeable individuals involved either as advisors or as paid
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!
10. 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 faculty members.
Why seek trouble? Who knows what strange tales might be told.
11. 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
Gosh, imagine what a mess it could be if they each had part of a powerful
12. Never, never
develop relationships between your university and
consultants, or lawyers and accountants who are involved in real-world
Speaking engagements are a
13. If an
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.)
14. 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
15. Some time after the university accepts equity in return for
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?!).
16. 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 company).
Well.... you can't say you weren't warned.
You say you’ve uncovered Strategies #17, #18 and #19 at your campus?
Please send them along so we can update this list (confidentiality guaranteed).
Virginia G. Bonker
230 Lackawanna Dr.
Andover, N J 07821-4113
Tel 973 426-1767 Fax 973 426-0224
5700 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE 19807-1312
Tel 302 426-0981 Fax 302 426-0982