From the Director: ARIA or AUTM? Why Past Presidents say keep AUTM

This letter is from 18 Past Presidents of AUTM.  We are strongly opposed to changing the name of AUTM to ARIA and urge you to vote against it.  Please do not ignore the vote.

Our reasons are as follows:

  1. The proposed new name is generic; there are many organizations who claim to innovate and promote research;

  2. The acronym of the proposed new name, ARIA, is confusingly similar to another organization in our space, AIRI, the Association of Independent Research Institutions, which also represents the institutions to which many of AUTM’s members belong. AIRI’s leadership immediately expressed concern about the similarity.  ARIA also overlaps with two of the words in the name of AAAS, another organization in our space;

  3. The acronym refers to an Italian melody; it is also identical to the name of a hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

  4. The AUTM name has built up immense brand value in the 31 years since we last changed our name from SUPA. The AUTM brand carries indisputable integrity and credibility due to our principles and practices.  We are known around the world and would be highly ill advised to give up the investment we’ve made in achieving that recognition;

  5. If we abandon the name AUTM, nothing would prevent others from using it. As evidence of the name’s value, two groups, Chinese AUTM (CAUTM) and Korean AUTM (KAUTM), are already doing so; such confusion could be highly detrimental to the organization’s members;

We understand that of the four words making up AUTM’s current name, the only one that cannot be argued with is “Association”; different groups can argue with

  • “University” – all those from federal labs, teaching hospitals, independent research institutes, corporations and service providers who are members;

  • “Technology” and “Managers” – all those who work in entrepreneurship, investment, incubations, etc.

However, expanding the scope and relevance of AUTM to new constituencies will come from our programming, not just by changing the name.  As an example, the sector-focused technology showcases are a successful initiative that has made AUTM more relevant and attractive to our corporate members.  If we want to promote entrepreneurship, we should restore the Start-Up Business Development Course to serve AUTM members who work in that space.

It’s important that in adding to our roles and membership we not abandon our roots.  We must continue to be the standard bearer for traditional technology transfer globally.  Moving too far away from our current name would send a message that we are no longer about technology transfer.

An alternative recommendation is therefore based on our belief that we are known globally by our acronym, “AUTM”, not as the “Association of University Technology Managers”. Our proposal is that the rebranding that the Board is seeking to carry out – with whose aims and objectives we agree– be achieved by changing the Association’s name to “AUTM” and redesigning the logo and tagline.  A tagline of “Accelerating University Technologies to the Market” or “Advancing University Technologies to the Market” preserves the existing name and brand value, ties in to the proposed new concepts and embraces tech transfer’s expanded role today and in the future.

An analogous pathway was followed by another organization with which AUTM has a very close relationship.  In January 2016, the Biotechnology Industry Organization changed its name to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.  The change probably did not register on most people’s radar screens because they maintained their acronym of BIO, and everyone thinks of the organization as BIO and not the Biotechnology Industry / Innovation Organization.

The proposed name change requires a two-thirds majority by voting members to pass.  When balloting begins on October 16, please vote against the change to ARIA and do not merely abstain by not voting.

Yours sincerely,

AUTM Past Presidents

Steve Atkinson
Louis Berneman
Joyce Brinton
Mark Crowell
Sean Flanagan
Ann Hammersla
Karen Hersey
Duke Leahey
Jane Muir
Lita Nelsen
Robin Rasor
Fred Reinhart
James Severson
Todd Sherer
Jon Soderstrom
Ashley Stevens
Teri Willey
Terry Young