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Tracking tech transfer agreements

The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking for a cloud-based solution to improve and streamline its technology transfer process, according to a request for information.  

The VA currently manages technology transfer with WellSpring Sophia software, a commercial off-the-shelf tool that the department describes as “purpose-built to manage all aspects of collaboration, marketing, management, and reporting related to technology transfer and related business activities.”

VA officials want a cloud-based replacement that can improve on the capabilities of the current platform, work well with more users and connect to  U.S. Patent Trademark Office and the European Patent Office.  Some other features the VA is looking for include the ability to do electronic signatures, create forms, track royalty payments, customizable workflows, web-based submissions tools.

The department, however, seems skeptical it will find any solutions, saying it is “unclear if an upgrade” is viable or “whether there is a non-Sophia system” that can meet end user requirements and absorb the current Sophia data.

Preserving and building on that data is important, as the VA’s tech transfer program itself recently caught the attention of the Government Accountability Office.

Much of the new technology developed at the VA is created in partnership with “affiliated universities” that are required to disclose commercialization activity involving inventions in annual reports to the VA.  However, GAO said researchers did not always fully understand the policy and did not consistently disclosed their inventions to the VA, costing the agency potential royalties and licensing opportunities.

The VA needs to take steps to standardize this annual reporting process, GAO said, and to create online training for completing the disclosure requirements.

Gina Farrisee, the deputy chief of staff for the VA, wrote in a response to GAO that the agency agreed with the recommendations in the report.  The VA plans to complete a standard for the format and content the annual reports should have by December 2018, Farrisee said.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.


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