From the Director: Adding Industry Relations to the Mix

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Two years ago, the Industry Contracting Group (ICG) had their reporting line moved from the Office of Sponsored Programs to OTT. The goal of the transition is to create a more holistic approach, and focus, on industry relations. This enables our office to do business with companies in more ways, while streamlining services and making it less challenging for companies to do business with Emory. Typically, industry contracting and technology transfer are in separate offices, but there are some research institutions that have combined the two. This can make sense because each group is already dealing with the same companies. This new arrangement requires rebranding the technology transfer office. Stakeholders tend to be familiar with technology transfer and what that means for them, but they generally don’t assume that includes research partnerships. While information regarding industry contracting has been added to our website, more will need to be done to communicate this message clearly and broadly. We recently kicked off a project to review our branding strategies and suggest improvements – stay tuned.

Putting these groups together creates a one-stop-shop allowing companies to approach one office and leave it to us to navigate Emory. What excites me are the possibilities that should emerge from these new synergies, allowing us to build new partnerships more efficiently and effectively. NIH funding focuses mainly on funding basic research, but to reduce risk and advance technology further down the development pathway, faculty need access to other types of funding. We are excited about our new ability to work with them to target and secure this type of funding.

There are advantages to having ICG within a technology transfer office. Funded research can often come from licensing agreements allowing my staff to engage companies and investors on both types of agreements. The change has not come without challenges; combining two distinct groups and cultures required change for everyone. The first year, post-merger, was spent addressing these changes as well as focusing on data. There have been three objectives for data collection: a) provide the details around the current level of corporate funding; b) provide management reporting tools and transparency of this data within the group; and c) provide information that can be built upon strategically in order to increase industry funding. The focus going forward is to figure out how to capture and exploit the synergistic benefits of the combined group.

One thing is clear–universities are expected to be catalysts of innovation and economic development. There is a lot of pressure to expand OTT services to include all aspects of innovation, including innovative research that could lead to a discovery. Offices will become more and more sophisticated, and oftentimes more integrated to improve and expand industry relations.