Technology Commercialization

What it is

The development of relationships between academic researchers or institutions and corporations or startups wanting to access academic intellectual property or research expertise. Three major areas within the field are licensing, research partnerships and entrepreneurship. Most universities and research hospitals have Technology Commercialization or Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs); so too do many corporations have offices on their side that manage these corporate-academic licensing and research relationships (known as Strategic Alliance Management). Start-up incubators play an increasingly important role in technology commercialization as well.

Starting points

University TTOs provide a good entryway for doctoral students and new PhDs. Look for internships and full-time entry-level positions such as Licensing or Technology Commercialization Assistant or Associate. Some universities have startup accelerators designed to expedite the research-to-venture process. Hospitals offer some opportunities, and many technology-based corporations have Strategic Alliance/Tech Scout roles where one might get started on the industry side, although you may be competing with internal candidates from corporate R&D.,


Lots. One can move up the chain of leadership in university TTOs, eventually reaching the Director level or higher, though you will probably have to change universities a few times to do so. One can also change sectors, moving fairly fluidly from a university-based position to an IP management position in a corporation, hospital, government agency or venture capital firm. Experience in this field also opens doors to related fields such as law and venture capital. Finally, many Technology Commercialization professionals join spin-off companies that they’ve become involved with. In short, tons of opportunity.


Life scientists may have a leg up here, but physical scientists and engineers can enter this field as well. Regardless of your discipline, an MBA, while not essential, can be an asset.

Personality and outlook

To be happy in this field, you must be very comfortable with the concept and process of turning research into commercial products. This requires entrepreneurial sensibilities and an understanding of both academic and business cultures. Strong interpersonal and communication skills, an outgoing personality, and an ability to come up with ideas in high-stakes situations will be assets as you work the sometimes-awkward intersection between academic researchers, industry, and university administration.


Read a basic business book or two; take a business class; join an entrepreneurship club on campus. Learn about technology-based ventures (products and startups) and why they succeeded or failed. If still interested, explore the TTO or startup accelerator at your university and see what opportunities may exist for you there.

Real Life Examples