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Title: Evaluating the Technology Transfer Process
Author: Vathsala I Stone
Published: 2003
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 5 (Spring) Annual Report, 2001-2002

Accomplishing technology transfer through push or pull models justifies it as a professional endeavor. Building the foundation for a discipline requires a rigorous evaluation of the models, methods and metrics involved. Although most technology transfer programs focus on the practice, the T2RERC is fortunate to be supported in a manner that permits it to Stephen Bauer 2001-2002 Annual Report 11 study and evaluate the very programs it operates. Dr. Vathsala Stone directs the T2RERC's evaluation research activities. For benchmarking purposes, the T2RERC originally intended to compare its efficiency and effectiveness to other technology transfer programs in operation. However, it appears that other programs do not document the time and effort involved in each transfer, nor do they subject their own programs to a formal evaluation process. The SBIR program involves product development and commercialization, rather than strict technology transfer, but it is the closest parallel with Federal funding. Even SBIR where Federal agencies solicit technologies and products to meet their own needs, the success rate for completed Phase I & Phase II projects is reported to be about twenty-five percent.

Lacking industry standards or comparable programs for technology transfer, the T2RERC is conducting an absolute - rather than comparative - benchmarking and evaluation of its own model and process. The evaluation has four components:

  1. Feasibility - how well does the process work?
  2. Effectiveness - how well are outcomes accomplished?
  3. Efficiency - how well are resources used?
  4. Validity - how well does program meet needs of stakeholders?

The empirical validation of the T2RERC's model is an important step. Once validated, this model can be compared to other emerging models as a means to develop the knowledge base underlying the discipline. The T2RERC model was constructed from the available literature melded with the program's experience, then simplified to emphasize the key elements and critical events. Although simplified, the model is comprehensive because it encompasses the entire technology transfer process, and all of the stakeholder groups critical to success.

Validating the model involves benchmarking the actual transfer process (Demand Pull or Supply Push) against the proposed process model. The process model tracks progress toward each transfer's final outcome -- success or failure. By doing so, the process model identifies the barriers with the potential to stop progress (failure an intermediate and final outcome), and the carriers that overcome barriers and permit progress to continue (success as an intermediate outcome).

All technology transfer activities require staff time, which is a quantifiable resource that serves as a surrogate measure of effort. Tracking staff time has multiple applications. Time expended by task within a project indicates the level of effort required to accomplish each deliverable. This level of effort helps identify barriers in the process. Comparing the time and effort expended on each carrier across multiple projects, helps estimate the resources required to overcome barriers. The time expended across all carriers in a completed project represents the investment and forms the basis for estimating the desired -- and tracking the actual -- return on this investment. The total time per project can be compared to other projects as a measure of average and absolute efficiency.

Specific carriers that overcome specific barriers are regarded as "critical success factors" because the transfer cannot be accomplished without them. A carrier that consistently overcomes a barrier across multiple transfers with optimum efficiency and effectiveness, becomes a "best practice" in accomplishing technology transfer. Operationalizing the critical success factors, validating the best practices, and overlaying these elements on the model process, contributes to building the discipline's knowledge base.

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