Your source for expert commentary on IP management issues.
Go to the blog
Editor-in-Chief, Anatole Krattiger
Why This Topic Is Important
Setting up and running a technology transfer office is a complex undertaking that draws on a diverse set
of technical, managerial, and business skills, that are all not commonly found within research institutions.
The attendant organizational and cultural changes require clear leadership and a commitment of
resources from senior administrators and policymakers. This section discusses both overarching issues of
managing technology transfer and many of the specific functions involved, including staffing, training, and
data and file management. Perspectives are provided on setting up technology transfer offices in
numerous different countries, including the U.S., Europe, and many emerging economies.
Key Implications and Best Practices: Section 6
Given that IP management is heavily context specific, these Key Implications and Best Practices are intended as starting points to be adapted to specific needs and circumstances.
- Technology transfer is the process of converting scientific findings into useful products or services for society. Hence encouraging public institutions and private sector enterprises to work together is an important element in any national strategy aimed at strengthening innovation.
- In the increasingly interlinked and globalized worlds of science, technology, and commerce, such collaborations should extend beyond national borders, as success will increasingly be measured by the ability to form dynamic, integrated, and mutually beneficial networks that span countries and institutions.
- Government policies and laws regarding technology transfer ought to be flexible so that each institution can shape its approach according to its own culture, mission, and context.
- Laws regarding IP ownership are essential for successful technology transfer.
- National institutions often require governmental encouragement and sustained funding to develop technology transfer offices (TTOs), as well as IP policies (conflict of interest management, allocation of revenues, and so forth).
- Viable strategies to set up and operate a TTO must be firmly grounded in realistic economic expectations. Technology transfer will not make any institution rich because building a robust technology transfer program will take sustained financial investment. It takes time (ten years or more) to build an IP portfolio, establish contacts, and develop skills in technology transfer. And it may take up to two decades or more before a university technology transfer program (including entrepreneurial spinouts) substantially affects the local economy.
- A certain critical mass of R&D activity is necessary to justify the costs of a fully functioning TTO. Some estimates would put this figure within the range of US$100 to $500 million in research expenditures annually.
- Several alternative models to an institutional TTO can be successful. costs can be shared among a consortium of universities or research institutions. Such hub-and-spokes configurations allow essential policy decisions and scalable functions to be moved to the center, while keeping essential context-specific and unscalable functions embedded within individual institutions. This allows for a more efficient distribution of scarce resources and of key personnel who have the necessary skills, allowing a few experienced professionals to selectively, yet effectively, manage and mentor technology transfer staff across multiple institutions.
- Recognizing that technology transfer is a talent-based business, the importance of building networks in the technology transfer and licensing community cannot be overstated. Governments should encourage the creation and operation of national technology transfer associations that concurrently build international linkages.
How to Set Up a Technology Transfer System in a Developing Country
by Carlos Fernandez
Ten Things Heads of Institutions Should Know about Setting Up a Technology Transfer Office
by Lita Nelsen