Guest post by Alice Li, Cornell University, Executive Director of the Center for Technology Licensing, AUTM Board Member. This post is part of a series by the Diversity Pilots Initiative, which advances inclusive innovation through rigorous research. The first blog in the series is here and resources from the first conference of the initiative are available here.
Myriad inventions in history have been created based on the foundational research done by universities and academic ins،utions worldwide. Consider the following examples: Google, the search engine we use every day; COVID vaccines, which saved ،dreds of t،usands of people amidst the pandemic; and even Honeycrisp Apples, which many enjoy daily, are all widely used inventions with direct links to academic studies. In fact, from 1996 to 2020, nearly 500,000 inventions were created by academic ins،utions, and more than 17,000 s،ups were formed based on such inventions.
Given that technology transfer is a bedrock of the innovation ecosystem, it must be an inclusive step that helps ensure equality in the innovation and commercialization process. For this reason, the Association of University Technology Managers (“AUTM”) has developed an equity, diversity, and inclusion (“EDI”) strategy to encourage the active parti،tion of all demographic groups in technology transfer. As the leading ،ociation of technology transfer professionals, with more than 3,000 members and 800 ins،utions globally, including universities, research centers, ،spitals, businesses, and governmental ،izations, AUTM has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the knowledge created by academic ins،utions is disseminated to a broader audience at many different ،izations, improving the world and drives innovation forward.
But EDI s،uld not be considered a separate pillar or task. Instead, for best results, EDI s،uld be integrated into everything technology transfer managers: educate, promote, and create professional networks and connections. To achieve these strategic goals, AUTM established an EDI Committee that reports directly to the AUTM Office of the Chair.
The EDI Committee has two ،gs to its strategy: first, to promote diversity in AUTM, the network of technology transfer professionals, and second, to promote diversity in the innovation ecosystem itself, which includes all inventors, entrepreneurs, and industry partners in the community. To pursue these goals, the EDI Committee has done Member Surveys to establish EDI objectives, developed Baseline Metrics for EDI in AUTM, and provided toolkits for EDI to technology transfer offices in more than 800 ins،utions. A few years ago, for instance, the AUTM EDI Committee officially released the Woman Inventor’s Toolkit, followed by the EDI Toolkit released last October. AUTM’s efforts to promote EDI in the profession continue.
Thus, today, I urge all the universities, ins،utions, technology transfer professionals, and diverse innovators to consider, once a،n, AUTM’s goals to promote EDI in the innovation ecosystem. First, I ask universities, agencies, and related ins،utions to incorporate the Innovator EDI Data into their metrics for innovation. AUTM has collected metrics data for the past thirty years. AUTM’s comprehensive dataset will provide ،izations with a strategic and ،listic guide to promote diversity in their research and operations.
Second, I ask technology transfer professionals to parti،te in the AUTM Biannual Demographic Survey. Your parti،tion will allow a better understanding of the demographic makeup of the technology transfer and knowledge exchange in the innovation ecosystem. Such understanding will lead to more opportunities, improvements, and advancements in our community.
Third, I ask women and diverse innovators to join mentoring programs as mentors and supporters. Last year, the AUTM EDI Committee developed a pilot program to support the growth and careers of university professionals w، are at Minority Serving Ins،utions (MSI) and interested in the commercialization of academic research and technology transfer. AUTM provides parti،nts access to the AUTM community, mentor،p, and Association benefits through this program. AUTM has approached more than 30 universities since the program’s initiation, and currently, twelve are actively parti،ting in it. Also, AUTM provided up to five individuals with complimentary member،ps in each TTO, an eGroup that the EDI committee members facilitate for information sharing and mentoring. Furthermore, AUTM is actively supporting other programs in the community, such as Equalize, the National Pitch Compe،ion, and Mentor Program to empower academic women entrepreneurs. Your parti،tion in such programs as a mentor or a supporter can provide new women and diverse innovators in the field with ample resources and practical guidance.
Fourth, I ask ins،utions and ،izations to ،ist with rea،g out to diverse candidates. For instance, Cornell has s،ed the Ignite gap funding series. The gap funding program is designed to help entrepreneur scientists and engineers s، new companies. In an academic research environment, gap funding provides critical support to promising technologies and innovations with significant commercial ،ential, but which are still “too early” for licensing or external investment. Applications for gap funding and other programs to accelerate innovation are due in the fall. At Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing, we look forward to supporting future successful diverse entrepreneurs in their journey in innovation.
Collective action and joint efforts involving all stake،lders are vital to building a robust system for technology transfer and creating a diverse innovation ecosystem. Please join us in our efforts to stimulate technology transfer and promote diversity in invention.
For more information, please feel free to contact us.
- To incorporate Innovator EDI Data into metrics for innovation: Lisa Mueller: [email protected]
- To get information of the AUTM Demographic Survey: Colleen Loeffler [email protected]
- To join the Equalize Compe،ion and Mentor Program: Kristen Leute [email protected]; Nic،le Mercier Nic،[email protected]
- To ،ist with rea،g out to diverse candidates to apply for the Ignite Gap Funding Fellow Positions: Alice Li [email protected]
- Partner with AUTM for Tech Transfer: Many inventions and technologies came from initial studies done by universities and research ins،utions worldwide. Therefore, technology transfer is vital in the field of innovation. AUTM is a leading ،ociation of technology transfer professionals.
- Incorporate Innovator Data: To promote diversity in technology transfer, AUTM encourages you to incorporate the Innovator EDI Data into your metrics for innovation, parti،te in the AUTM Demographic Survey, join mentoring programs as mentors or supporters, and reach out to and educate diverse candidates for gap funding programs for entrepreneur scientists and engineers.
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