What is Technology Transfer

How University Research Drives Innovation


Federal Building

Universities compete for federal funding to conduct critical research


Conical flask

University faculty and students make groundbreaking discoveries in the lab



University technology transfer offices patent and copyright these discoveries



University technology transfer offices then help transfer the rights to use these ideas  to businesses and entrepreneurs and startups



Businesses, entrepreneurs and startups develop the ideas into products that create jobs and help improve quality of life for all Americans

How Tech Transfer Transforms Society

Anytime you check your smartphone, get an MRI, or even check the weather report, you're benefiting from federally-funded university research that's been brought to the marketplace. 

All of these and countless other technologies and everyday products are possible because of technology transfer -- the process by which universities patent the discoveries unlocked in the laboratories and license them to businesses and entrepreneurs who then turn them into important and even life-saving commercial products.

Because the discoveries emerging from university research tend to be early-stage, high-risk inventions, successful university technology transfer transactions require a patent system that protects such innovations.

Previously, federally-funded university discoveries would often languish because they lacked the patent protections needed to bring them into the marketplace. The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 prompted a significant increase in university patenting of those discoveries. Patent protections give businesses and entrepreneurs the confidence to license, invest in, and develop university discoveries into marketable products, knowing that no competitor can use those discoveries for a certain period of time. This process is central to promoting economic growth and ensuring the United States remains the global innovation leader.

Universities are guided by the core values and practices outlines in "Nine Points to Consider in Licensing University Technology, " which sets out the principles for ensuring technology transfer promotes the public good.

2016 AUTM tech transfer survey

diagram of Technology Transfer Lifecycle 2016 in piechart format