Facilitating Technology Transfer

An MBA in science and technology helped this Queen's graduate realize she wanted to champion the business side of scientific research

Before working at University Technologies International, I was a part of the Strategic Sourcing Group at Shell Canada (SHC). I was seconded to Albian Sands Energy, an oil sands site in northern Alberta, for which Shell is the operator. I managed the commercial strategy for the site's process chemicals and negotiated the agreements with suppliers. Finding my job at UTI was the result of a focused job search and good timing. I was ready for a new challenge, and had been doing some hard thinking about my next move. I was beginning to feel I had moved too far away from my academic background. I remembered meeting and being impressed by the vice-president of the technology transfer office at Queen's University earlier in my career, and something clicked.

I thought that a tech transfer position would be a good use of both my business and scientific training and experience. University research is critical to innovation, and I liked the idea of helping researchers profit from market needs. I did some Internet research, and found the technology transfer office, UTI, at the University of Calgary. By a great stroke of luck, UTI was looking for a project manager in the physical sciences area. I went in for an interview with the team, and was impressed by the positive, dynamic group of people and results-oriented environment. Everything happened pretty quickly from there.

As Project Manager, Physical Sciences, I am part of the Licensing and Business Development team. I work with clients, mostly professors and researchers, at the University of Calgary, to identify new inventions derived from their academic research. I perform assessments of patentability, market potential, and overall commercial potential and make recommendations to the UTI team as to how best to commercialize the technology.

Once we have established commercialization potential, I am responsible for developing marketing and licensing strategies, with strategic input from the team and from the researchers for each of the technologies in the portfolio. I initiate contacts with potential licensees. I am responsible for negotiating and closing license and equity agreements with industry partners.

Here's a typical workday:

7:15 a.m.—I leave the house and drive to the office, located in the research park just north of the University of Calgary campus.

7:30 a.m.—Settling in for the day's work. I start off by reviewing my work plan for the day, and then check voicemail and e-mail. I have another coffee and get down to priority tasks: marketing. I call potential licensees, companies across Canada and the U.S., to explore if a particular technology in my portfolio would fit into their research or product development path. I find the early morning is a good time to catch people, especially on the East Coast. The ultimate goal is the licensing of a given technology into an organization. Another day's priority may be to respond to U.S. Patent Office actions, required to protect a given technology.

9 a.m.—Quick e-mail check. Caffeine and chocolate fix, so critical to productivity.

9:30 a.m.—Head over to campus for a 10 a.m. meeting.

10 a.m.—Meeting with a professor regarding progress on a...

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