Awhile back, I read a great paper that equates the university campus to a feudal system with kings, lords, and common folk…and drawbridges. And while there was much told about traditional academic departments, faculty, and administrators…there was little mention of the role that the tech transfer professional plays in this game of thrones.
In my opinion, tech transfer professionals could audition for any one of the following positions:
- Trader: Traders are responsible for understanding the resources of their land, transferring it through trade, returning with goods that are of value to the kingdom. Without the perspective of the trader, the kingdom can become stagnant—searching for new uses for its output, and new ideas to evolve the land. The primary difference between a good trader and a great trader is how they can work within a system that is sometimes at odds, transform the resources into attractive goods, and broker the deals.
- Statesman: Kings stay in power by growing the kingdom’s prestige and riches. A successful tech transfer professional can drive the operation to support both. Their work, through the delivery of royalties, start-ups, and good press will position the unit in a place of influence—a trusted man of coin and a partner in positive kingdom relations with outsiders. Internally, the tech transfer professional will have to deal with land disputes and is one of the few that can work between factions to complete the system and deliver results.
- The Wizard/Witch: Look through the glass ball and you will see a prophet or someone that can see the future and connect ideas (and commercial/investment partners). The route of innovation is not always clear, and it takes a leading tech transfer professional to foresee and craft its realization—even if it means becoming a witch in some peoples’ eyes!
Each of these roles are a justifiable attribution to the tech transfer professional individually, but are likely each represented in the complete package. The primary trait expressed by those that balance these roles in this campus kingdom is gumption.
Gumption is resourcefulness backed with confidence. To know what you want to do, understand what is needed, and find a way to make it happen. The university kingdom is not an easy place, but I’ll put my riches (and my recommendations to kings) behind those tech transfer professionals with a track record of getting things done—those that have played the roles that needed playing.
In the campus kingdom, you can buy a shiny new set of armor, but you can’t buy gumption. Its earned.
Tell us about some of your (or if you feel better, someone else’s) campus battles in the name of tech transfer? How have you used your gumption to prevail?
Quality #3: Thought-leader