Executive Director, NDSU Research Foundation at North Dakota State University

Please note: this job has already been filled by Gardner Innovation Search Partners.


The NDSU Research Foundation is a separate, independent, not-for-profit organization that facilitates the transfer of NDSU scientific discoveries, technologies, products, and processes to the marketplace. The Research Foundation was established on May 30, 1989, and incorporated in North Dakota as a scientific and educational organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to make interactions with business and industry possible and to expand NDSU’s ability to commercialize its research discoveries for and with domestic and international for-profit business organizations.


Executive Director Job Duties

North Dakota State University (NDSU) is looking for an experienced, collaborative leader in technology transfer, licensing, and commercialization to serve as the next Executive Director of the NDSU Research Foundation (NDSURF), a non-profit 501(c)(3) that advances technology transfer and commercialization for NDSU research. While NDSURF is a separate entity, the Executive Director will be appointed subject to Board approval and serve on the Board ex-officio, but will be an employee of NDSU, reporting to the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity. The Board seeks an Executive Director who will create impact and outcomes via NDSU research, including by advancing the public benefit and commercialization potential of the research.

The NDSURF Board seeks greater engagement between the Research Foundation and campus faculty, students, and staff at NDSU. To help achieve that goal, the Board is seeking its first full-time Executive Director. The successful hire will work collaboratively with the Board and NDSU to develop and champion a shared vision, establish organizational goals and metrics, create a strategic plan, and enhance partnerships with campus researchers and industry in support of commercialization and economic development. NDSU is engaged in revitalizing its processes and opportunities around entrepreneurship and innovation and its technology portfolio.

The 2022 Heartland Forward report benchmarked NDSURF 6th on their normalized measure of licenses and options issued and 117th overall. NDSU was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) Hub, the Great Plains I-Corps Hub. NDSU technologies include agricultural products and inventions in the biosciences, materials sciences, engineering, and technologies aligning with NDSU’s broad research enterprise.  The Executive Director will join a dynamic city, state, and region looking to advance research-driven innovation. The successful candidate will bring extensive experience in managing the life cycle of research-driven technology transfer and in working collaboratively with a Board of Directors.  It is anticipated that after the new Executive Director assesses and evaluates NDSU/NDSURF’s approach to technology transfer and engages in strategic planning, this will create the opportunity for the successful hire to reshape some aspects of the position, in coordination with the NDSU Vice President for Research and Creative Activity, the NDSU Research Foundation Board, and a staff of two direct reports dedicated to technology transfer.

Read the full Executive Director, NDSU Research Foundation Position Specification here.

Executive Director Qualifications


  • Bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering discipline
  • Proven ability of working effectively with internal and external stakeholders of all levels
  • Minimum of eight years’ involvement and experience in technology transfer
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills with the ability to connect and even bridge academic and industry audiences
  • Marketing and business development acumen, including principles of licensing
  • Demonstrated superlative interpersonal and collaborative skills, including ability to work closely with external stakeholders and industry partners and teams within an organization by providing a strong customer-service orientation towards academic inventors
  • Relevant knowledge of the sciences or experience working with scientists and engineers across various disciplines
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility


  • An advanced degree (master’s degree, juris doctorate, or a doctorate in a STEM discipline)
  • Three to five years of leadership or management experience. Demonstrated depth of leadership experience working in a Foundation technology transfer office/with a Board of Directors
  • Proven experience with team building and management
  • Thorough knowledge of patent prosecution, IP law, and regulations regarding government funded inventions (e.g. Bayh-Dole Act), including ensuring compliance with, and adherence to those laws and regulations, while building trust and providing efficient and effective service to diverse constituents inside and outside of the organization
  • Demonstrated expertise in at least one of the areas of industry strengths in the region and/or at NDSU: agricultural products; biosciences and biotechnology; engineering; uncrewed autonomous systems; software; materials sciences; or agricultural technology
  • Experience in private industry related to technology transfer and intellectual property
  • Registered Technology Transfer Professional (RTTP) or Certified Licensing Professional (CLP)

NDSU offers many benefits to meet the vast needs of all employees. Read more here: https://www.ndsu.edu/hr/benefits/.

Note that this position is one of three complementary roles that the Office of Research and Creative Activity is filling:  Director of Innovation and Economic Development (NDSU); Executive Director of the NDSU Research & Technology Park (a non-profit (501(c)(3) that generates economic development through access to NDSU research expertise and by generating new ventures through partnerships between startups, technology businesses and NDSU research); and the Executive Director of the NDSU Research Foundation.  Together, these three hires will coordinate their distinct efforts and portfolios in a complementary fashion to advance research, innovation, and economic development for NDSU, North Dakota and the Great Plains Region. This position will require some travel and the duty station is Fargo, ND. It is not a remote or hybrid position.

Executive Director Applicants

Interested in Applying?

The NDSU Research Foundation has exclusively retained Gardner Innovation Search Partners to manage this search. Gardner Innovation Search Partners is the top technology transfer recruiter in the world, and is committed to presenting a diverse slate of candidates who possess the skills, expertise, and enthusiasm to thrive in this role.

Interested applicants should send their resume, cover letter, and any questions to:

Lisa Rooney, Recruiter
(740) 251-7390

Glen Gardner, Recruiter
(614) 354-8400

Tom Sweetman, Recruiter
(614) 563-2389

Gardner Innovation Search Partners is committed to diversity in both people and ideas. Read more about our commitment to diversity and inclusion here: https://gardnerisp.com/diversity-inclusion/.