An Innovative Approach to Tech Transfer Conferences

July 02, 2014

I attended the recent ASTP Conference in Oslo, and was fortunate enough to be there as the conferenced honored one of the key people behind the success of that organization who is leaving that organization.  She certainly can be described as a magician when it comes to managing a conference.  It was a warmly poignant and humorous addition to the conference dinner, and one that had me reflecting on her1280px-OSLO-NO-05_05_ubt accomplishments, as well as reminiscing about how the organization has grown and evolved.  

But this blog isn’t going to be a trip down memory lane, though that might be a subject of another post.  This is a post about conferences and the value of multiple conferences based on regions or cultures.

It is my impression that, from the very beginning (and I’ve been attending ASTP Meetings since the second one in Prague), ASTP wanted to establish itself as something besides AUTM Europe” and rather as technology transfer leaders.  My belief is that, in general, it has been quite successful in achieving that objective, and I have no doubt its success encouraged other organizations to spring up internationally.

ASTP is not alone in that; a similar comment can be made about PraxisUnico in the United Kingdom.

This year, I attended the AUTM Annual Conference in San Francisco, the AUTM Asia Conference in Taiwan, the InnovFest Conference in Singapore, the ASTP Conference in Oslo, and the Ideas to IPO Conference in London.  This is not new to me; I’ve had the good fortune to attend conferences in multiple countries on 4 continents, and have enjoyed the

Certainly, holding conferences as local events means that more and different people get to attend. While I do tend to see a fair number of “familiar faces”-- and I’m not just talking about fellow vendors—most of the faces were new to me. Often younger, these are people who probably would have never attended a larger “world” or US-centric conference. So not only do these conferences have an opportunity to guide future professionals in this field, it benefits from new ideas and youthful verve in questioning the status quo. Without those fresh faces, conferences are in serious danger of exhausting their value and just becoming annual self-congratulatory reunions.

But, its not just having a local presence that is important. There are cultural differences; that is, US Technology Transfer Offices aren’t European Knowledge Transfer Offices, aren’t Australian Knowledge Commercialisation Offices, aren’t Asian Enterprise Offices.

I’ve over-simplified the names, but I believe one can make a good case for they reflect a fundamental difference in how those different offices view their roles.

While I am not stating anything new when I say that diversity is good for this industry, I am trying to say that in order to make the most of that diversity, we all need to experience and to share in it. Diversity in and of itself is not good if it remains isolated (linguists, don’t roll your eyes). Different thinking must be allowed to take a hand in leading the organizations; technology transfer professionals should attend and experience conferences in non-local places.  Yes, there is a high cost to that but wouldn’t it be money well spent?

We’re all about innovation, right?




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