Graduate and professional school students have a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about commercializing UT’s innovations, thanks to UTRF’s Commercialization Analyst Internship program. Commercialization analysts assist in the evaluation, marketing and licensing of cutting-edge technologies developed at the University.
Established in 2012, interns work very closely with UTRF’s licensing staff and with each other to evaluate early-stage technologies and assist with initial screenings of invention disclosures. Interns also participate in inventor interviews, research the intellectual property landscape, search for and contact potential licensees, and observe meetings with patent attorneys. As a result, the students walk away from the program with a firmer grasp of what it takes to move an emerging technology from bench to market. They also develop a broad skill set that can be applied across many careers, including strong communication skills, a basic knowledge of intellectual property law, and an understanding of how to conduct market and industry analysis for a particular technology or product sector.
UTRF Vice President Dr. Maha Krishnamurthy personally knows the value of the intern experience.
“I was an intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory when I was an MBA student,” says Dr. Krishnamurthy. “Prior to that, I didn’t know what tech transfer was. That internship opened my eyes to what is involved in the commercialization process. With our program, I want to give students at UT a similar experience.”
Aside from learning to navigate the tech transfer process, interns benefit from valuable career preparation experiences. Students from the College of Business, the College of Law, and graduate students in science and engineering are introduced to entrepreneurship, venture capital consulting, and intellectual property protection such as patents and copyrights. This was a selling point for current UTRF intern and MBA student Jason Bouvier.
“As recently minted life sciences Ph.D. with an interest in the business side of innovation, an internship at UTRF seemed like a great opportunity to understand the initial hurdles an emerging technology must overcome in route to the commercial marketplace. What I am learning as an MBA student and as a UTRF intern is complementary,” he said.
For graduate students pursuing PhDs or science careers, the internship program allows them to explore a career track that doesn’t involve working in a lab.
“Students in the sciences are often looking for careers that go beyond the bench,” said Dr. Lakita Cavin, UTRF Senior Staff Attorney. “This internship gives them an opportunity to see what alternative career paths are available for them as a trained scientist and provides them with a different way to use their technical skill set.”
The cross-disciplinary nature of the internship is also the main draw. In fact, the 2018 – 2019 intern group includes four students from a mix of technical and law backgrounds. “I applied to intern at UTRF because it seemed like a great opportunity to work and learn at the intersection of law, business, and technology,” explains UTRF intern and law school student Travis Vest. “While here, I plan to learn as much as I can about IP law, market analysis, and the commercialization process in general.”
The internship program also provides tremendous value to UTRF. Interns help to identify prospective licensees and reach out to as many as 50 – 60 contacts for each technology. The interns’ assistance in conducting innovation assessments allows the licensing staff to focus on managing technologies that they can commercialize in an effort to ultimately bring them to market. The students also bring a fresh perspective to UTRF’s work, offering up ideas about markets and innovation.
Since 2012, UTRF has had 20 interns, averaging three a year. Past interns have gone on to secure jobs in many areas including law, venture capitalism, consulting, business development and entrepreneurship. One former intern even went on to become a graduate fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
The application process for a UTRF internship differs between the two offices: for the Knoxville Multi-Campus office, recruitment opens in February and lasts until late March. The internship runs from May to April of the following year, with students working full time during the summer and 10 hours per week during the fall and spring. For the Memphis office, applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interns work 10 hours per week for six months.
Learn more about applying for a UTRF internship at https://utrf.tennessee.edu/about/internships/.