Q&A With Linden Rhoads: UW’s TechTransfer Leader Brings VC Revolution to Campus (Part 1)

2/10/09Follow @xconomy

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for this region and this university that we do. That’s what’s going to determine whether we remain and increasingly become recognized as America’s premier public research university.

Increasingly, we see this office as one of the differentiators in an otherwise fungible platform. In addition to the opportunity to collaborate between engineers and a school of medicine, which not every university has, to have an office of tech transfer that is committed to be the ultimate in commercialization support for researchers. One that’s not focused as much on all those other mandates that tech transfer offices can get distracted by. We’ll be focused on doing anything and everything that every other university in the country does to help its researchers achieve their commercialization goals.

X: What’s your philosophy of tech transfer? What should this office be doing, and what should it not be doing?

LR: What we really need to be doing is asking ourselves every day, ‘Are we doing everything possible to support our researchers?’ That’s different than being distracted by the idea of impact, in terms of what we’re doing for the local economy, being distracted by the idea of making money. I really believe if we do everything we can to be the best place for researchers and we help them as much as we can, all those other things will come and more. I just think it’s not useful to be overly conscious of those other goals as you actually carry out the work. What we need to be doing is focusing on helping our researchers, and being everything a university can be for them.

Too often, everyone runs around to think their job is to do industry relations, or their job is to be constantly thinking about revenue, or showing Olympia what we can do for the state. The bottom line is we can’t commercialize things unless they’re here. They’re here by virtue of the fact that researchers doing promising work have chosen to be here. What we need to do are things that make them want to be here, and want to stay here. We see ourselves as a big part of the reason why someone doing the most promising work in this country would choose to join this university. Increasingly, researchers in high-demand areas have, alongside their academic and research goals, a set of commercialization dreams as well. What we want them to know is this office is proactive in helping researchers achieve those goals, and it’s a reason to come here.

X: So are you getting involved in recruiting some of these star faculty? You personally?

LR: Yes, me personally, and people in the office. The way we’ve done that is by taking responsibility for getting the venture capital community involved. For example, there are open faculty spots in bioengineering now, and it’s really important, we would love to see this university become more translationally focused. We have been going to the local life sciences venture community and saying, ‘Look, take this opportunity deadly seriously. You need to start networking with all your colleagues, and ask them, if you had a chance to recruit any one bioengineer to live in your neighborhood and generate intellectual property in your neighborhood, who would it be?’ You need to start out by getting those names to the hiring committee. When I tell them that, and don’t hear anything, I personally call them back … Next Page »

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/profile?viewProfile=&key=6254578&locale=en_US&trk=tab_pro Anthony Rodriguez

    As a graduate student in Bioengineering interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, Linden Rhoads has been a breath of fresh air. Tech Transfer has taking on a whole new mindset toward translational research. From changing of job titles to reinventing or creating new units such as the EIR program or the New Ventures Unit, the attitude at Tech Transfer has been transformed to be more aggressive and proactive. Great work Linden, and thank you and your staff for all of your hard work.