Careers in Technology Transfer

What is technology transfer?
Technology transfer refers to the transfer of technology developed or initially discovered in the public sector (e.g. universities, government agencies) to private industry for further development and commercialization. Jobs in technology transfer may be found on either end of this transfer, i.e. in the institutions seeking to bring their technology to market or in the companies that will develop the technology. In addition, jobs are also found in go-between organizations such as non-profit technology transfer centers that facilitate the transfer of technology from public sector to private. To learn more about technology transfer and the sorts of careers in this area, visit the web sites of some organizations involved in tech transfer given below.

How to get started on a career in tech transfer:
  • If you currently work at a university, government lab, or private research institute, go talk to the people in your institution's technology transfer office. Ask about their careers and opportunities in your area, including possible internships.
  • Some universities or organization also offer degree programs or give fellowships in the tech transfer area. Several of these are listed below. Some degree programs may not be appropriate for someone who already has a Ph.D.

NIH Office of Technology Transfer. "Each year, hundreds of new inventions are made in Public Health Service (PHS) laboratories. The Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) endeavors to transfer these inventions through licensing to the private sector for development that will benefit the public health." Of particular interest to scientists contemplating a move to the transfer field is a listing of the staff at OTT and their career histories. Of 43 listed staff at OTT, six have Ph.D.s, in fields that include Chemical Physics, Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Developmental Biology.

Biotechnology Information Institute. Publisher of the Federal Bio-Technology Transfer Directory, a database of biomedical, biotechnology and pharmaceutical technology transfer opportunities. Also has lots of links for those with a particular interest in biomedical tech transfer.

National Technology Transfer Center. The NTTC is a NASA-sponsored technology commercialization center located in West Virginia. "NTTC's task is to take technologies off laboratory shelves and put them to work in U.S. businesses and industries."

Center of Technology Commercialization. Massassachusetts-based non-profit company, one of six non-profit, regional technology transfer centers (RTTC) that act as gateways for transfer of federal technology to private industry. The RTTCs help private industry locate and acquire technologies developed in federal laboratories, particularly NASA. The mission of the RTTCs is to provide "a nationwide network devoted to the common mission of assisting American industry to improve worldwide competitiveness." Other RTTCs include the Mid-Atlantic Technology Applications Center, the Far West Regional Technology Transfer Center, the Mid-Continent Technology Transfer Center, the Southern Technology Applications Center, and the Great Lakes Industrial Technology Center. As an example of what sort of work the RTTCs do, read this success story about an inventer who teamed up with an RTTC and NASA to bring his invention to market.

U.S. Department of Defense TechTRANSIT. Lots of tech transfer links can be found at this site.

Mona Wan describes her career in technology licensing at a university technology transfer office in this feature from Science magazine's NextWave site. (Note: you need a password to get into this site, but registration is free.)

Washington Research Foundation. An example of a local, private tech transfer organization. "The mission of the Washington Research Foundation is to maximize the economic and community benefits of technologies resulting from research at Washington state institutions, especially by starting companies and investing earnings in further research, education, and local enterprise."

Washington Technology Center. Another tech transfer center focusing on Washington State."The WTC works with Washington state companies and academic researchers to fund and facilitate market-driven, high technology focused, industry-university R&D partnerships to create economic development opportunities and enhance technology transfer statewide."

Fellowships and Degree Programs:
Technology Transfer Fellowship Program.
Sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, these fellowships are open to individuals who hold advanced degrees in a number of fields, including science, medicine, law, and communications. Applicants need have no background in technology transfer but should have an interest in the application of tech transfer to cancer research and treatment. Fellowships are for 1-2 years with possible renewal for up to 5 years.

Bachelor's degree in Innovation and Technology. Offered by Wheeling Jesuit University, home of the National Technology Transfer Center.

Entrepreneurial Technology Apprenticeship Program. Graduate and undergraduate students from historically black universities and minority institutions are placed in year-long apprenticeships at participating institutions (e.g. Naval Undersea warfare Center, National Cancer Institute, Stennis Space Center, Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation) to develop careers in technology management, manufacturing assistance and industrial research.


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This page was last updated on November 1, 1997.


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