Commercialization: A ‘Game Changer’ for Librarians?

The time-honored image of the lonely inventor hunched over a desk in his laboratory or workshop is giving way to a much different picture of innovation, that of a team of researchers sitting at computers in their offices. Look closely, and you might well see some people in the background—librarians, who are playing an increasingly important role in the development and commercialization of innovations.


For a panoramic view of this process, visit the University of Arizona (UA), where librarians are partnering with two university-affiliated units, Tech Launch Arizona and the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation. The librarians help both groups identify and evaluate campus-produced innovations so they can make more informed decisions about bringing these innovations to market.

“Each librarian contributes his/her personal expertise—such as specialized knowledge in business, marketing, patents, or chemistry—to the evaluation of campus-produced innovations,” write four UA librarians in an article in the July-August issue of Information Outlook. “. . . Three of the six librarians currently supporting Tech Launch Arizona previously worked in the biomedical industry before becoming academic librarians. Their experience with the innovation process has been a key reasons for TLA’s success, as they have expertise in several different areas: patents, chemistry, market research, pharmaceutical pipelines, medical device development, and engineering.”

The article in Information Outlook is a follow-up to a contributed paper presented by three UA librarians at the SLA 2015 Annual Conference in Boston. The paper provided background on the creation and operation of the librarians’ partnership with TLA, while the article looks at the overall technology transfer process at the University of Arizona and in other academic settings.

“As more and more universities move in this direction, opportunities are arising for academic librarians to position themselves as ‘game changers’ in this arena,” the authors conclude. “. . . We plan to explore this topic further and engage others who are also seeking opportunities to transform and leverage information professionals’ skill sets.”

To learn more about how librarians are supporting technology transfer and the commercialization of innovations, read the article.

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