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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.
- Successfully establishing and operating a technology transfer office (TTO) will require visible and sustained support—financial and otherwise—from senior administration, which can set the program’s mission, policies, and priorities. Clear mandates will help technology transfer professionals choose among competing priorities.
- A TTO can create many benefits for the university, industry, and the surrounding community, but it requires carefully planned and consistent long-term financial and administrative support. And above all, it requires TTO officers able—and willing—to take risks and senior management to back them.
- Efficient and effective TTOs must have an articulated TTO mission, transparent TTO policies and procedures, entrepreneurial staffing and an entrepreneurial environment, customer-friendly relations between TTO staff and internal and external constituents, a highly supportive administration, strong TTO links to potential industry partners, and TTO access to risk, or venture, capital.
- The core element for successful technology transfer is people. The TTO should be led by an individual who understands the details of running a business. Additionally, staff members with experience working in the relevant business sector are required.
- An important factor for a successful TTO is the institution’s entrepreneurial culture.
- 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 program will take sustained financial investment. It takes time (ten+ years) to build an IP portfolio, establish contacts, and develop skills in technology transfer.
- A 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.
- Implementing a consortium model of a TTO across institutions presents many challenges. These can be managed with clearly articulated policies of ownership, the distribution of income from commercialized technology, and mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflicts of interest.
- An important feature of this model is to allow for a certain level of competition, a locally embedded TTO officer, and an evolution of the model. As the member institution’s R&D activities increase, local TTOs can take on more and more of the functions that had been delegated to the central office.
Administration of a Large Technology Transfer Office
by Sally Hines
Building Networks: The National and International Experiences of AUTM
by Karen Hersey
Establishing a Technology Transfer Office
by Terry A. Young
How to Set Up a Technology Transfer Office: Experiences from Europe
by Alison F. Campbell
How to Set Up a Technology Transfer System in a Developing Country
by Carlos Fernandez
Monitoring, Evaluating, and Assessing Impact
by Sibongile Pefile
Practical Considerations for the Establishment of a Technology Transfer Office
by John Dodds, Susanne Somersalo
Ten Things Heads of Institutions Should Know about Setting Up a Technology Transfer Office
by Lita Nelsen
Training Staff in IP Management
by Sibongile Pefile, Anatole Krattiger, 1,
WIIPS™: Whitehead Institute Intellectual Property System (A Relational Database for IP Management and Technology Transfer)
by Amina Hamzaoui