May/June 2002 edition


A Rich Vision of Technology Transfer

Guest Author: Dr. Gary Lundquist


            Imagine you are a reporter, and your editor has sent you out to do a story on technology transfer.  Using the old adage for reporters you would ask,

Who?   What?   When?   Where?
Why?   How?   and   What cost?

Let’s use that formula to create a rich vision of technology transfer.  To make the story easier to tell, I’ll rearrange the questions a bit.

Why?  Technology transfer moves technology from “source” to “adopter”.  Why would either side make the effort.

We transfer technologies to solve problems and create opportunities – for both sides of the transaction.  Tech transfer is a win-win proposition, or it doesn’t happen.

An integrated study of technology movement in industry and federal labs showed that:

·         Movement of technology is as important to business success as is creation of technology. 

·         Integrating creation and movement is the key to the impact of science and engineering.

·         Technology transfer is as important to business success as are science and engineering.

Who?  Agents of change transfer technologies.  Agents of change combine vision, active learning, leadership, strategy, selling skills, cooperation, communication, and relationship skills.  In short, they have marketing skills.

Studies show that employers want engineers who can move their “products” to the next stage of development.  Thus change-agent skills are as important to career success as are technical discipline skills. 

Where?  Technology moves from initial idea to final sale along a development path called a “value chain.”  Tech transfer happens between value-chain steps, as between research and development.

Every value chain is a linked sequence of technology transfers, and every technology transfer is part of a value chain.  This is true whether the value chain is internal to a company or crosses corporate boundaries.

When?  Transfer happens when four key barriers fall to threshold levels.

Source:  Proves it can produce and use the technology.

Adopter:  Has the skills, equipment, and infrastructure to use the technology.

Agreement:  The two sides find each other and achieve win-win.

Trust:  Each trusts the other to meet the terms of agreement.

What?  A technology is the ability to produce a prototype that meets specific performance standards.  That’s right – technologies are abilities.  We can’t hold a technology in our hands.  We must hold it in our minds. 

Think about that for a moment.  Though counter-intuitive, this single concept is core to transfer success.

Cost-justify?  Product development is an investment that is justified between each step of company value chains.  The same proofs must be made to justify transfer between organizations.

Technical Proof:  It works! 

Control Proof:  We own it!  (intellectual property)

Safety Proof:  It’s safe!  (no liabilities)

Value Proof:  Customers need it!

Economic Proof:  A market exists!

Attractiveness Proof:  The company wants it!

Sizzling proofs compel investment.  Consider presenting your technology as if selling to an end customer. 

How?  Three steps complete a transfer.

Contact:  Between source and adopter(s)

Agreement:  A shared vision of mutual wins that justify transfer, written into licenses, cooperative development, spin-outs, acquisitions, etc.

Movement:  Transfer processes

The first two require marketing, a topic we’ll leave to another article (July issue of Technology Community).  The second also requires legal work. The third gets into transfer mechanics.

Mechanics begin by understanding that a technology is made of six abilities.

Design:  Commonly understood result of a value-chain step

Architecture:  Rules for putting designs together

Tools:  Methods for creating a design

Standards:  Industry constraints on design implementation

Infrastructure:  Resources needed to implement a design

Processes:  Methods for managing all of the above

Checklists or project-management systems then ensure successful transfer.  Remember to transfer abilities.  At their core, transfer mechanics are all about education.

Conclusion:  In practice, technology transfer is a powerful paradigm for development and delivery of value by any organization that serves customers. 

Tech transfer is also an important paradigm for personal careers.  We hold responsibilities for both invention and movement of our inventions.  We are responsible for changing what is possible.

(This article is a summary of:  A Rich Vision of Technology Transfer.  Many concepts were developed with John Thompson of Lucent.   For the complete article, visit, or see the Colorado Chapter of the Technology Transfer Society at

Gary Lundquist accelerates business performance with marketing done strategically.  He founded a software business and grew it to worldwide dominance of its market niche.  He has done tech transfer in industry and government.  He writes and speaks on business performance, change, and the missing power in science and engineering.  Reach him at 303-840-9929 or



Headlines from the May/June edition of Technology Community 

Page 1  A Rich Vision of Technology Transfer
Page 2  New Era of Plant-Based Plastics and Fibers a Reality


Page 3  Sunflowers could replace Rubber Trees

                        15 Home Builders Earn Energy Value Awards

Page 4  Nani Games Invited into Business Incubator

            Technology Management Solutions

            Robots: Man's Best Friend

Page 5  Robots: Man's Best Friend Continued


Page 6 New Energy Systems Enhance National Security

            International Materials Research Network

Page 7  Sustainability Awards of CSEF 2002


Page 8  CU Business Advancement Center and columns

Page 9  Rockies Venture Club and Technology Transfer Society Columns

Page 10 Environmental Business Alliance and

              Colorado Photonics Industry Association columns

R&D Funding

Page 11  Small Business Innovation Research



Any technology organization or company is invited to submit brief articles via fax or e-mail to:
CU Business Advancement Center,
5353 Manhattan Cir., Suite 202, Boulder, CO 80303.
Phone (303) 554-9493 ext. 13 Fax (303) 554-9605
Kimberly Croll

Return to Technology Community       Subscribe to Technology Community      Go to Technology Community Calendar