1.1            Introduction

Technology transfer is the process of converting scientific findings into useful products or services for society. All of this requires sound IP (intellectual property) management, which makes such partnerships more effective and allows technologies to be transferred not just in one direction but in more complex and valuable ways, to benefit more people. Technology transfer is considered a rewarding process for research-based institutions and the people who make it happen. It leads to new products, services, and jobs. Technology transfer will not really make your university or research institution rich because building a robust technology transfer program will take sustained financial investment. It takes time (eight to ten years) 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. The ultimate impact, however, may be very large—both economically and culturally—for the university, its graduates, and the wider community.

Successfully implementing these plans will require visible and sustained support—fiscal and otherwise—from senior administration to set the program’s mission, policies, and priorities. Clear mandates will help technology transfer professionals choose among competing priorities and the ever-present trade-offs between business and academic values. IP ownership policies, the roles of researchers in interactions with industry, and other ground rules should be set up before the program begins because conflicts of interest, both real and perceived, are inevitable. For the same reason, clear policies and a well-understood review-and-appeal process need to be put in place early. Finally, technology transfer is a talent-based business. It is difficult to find people who can speak the two languages of academia and industry and who also have the creativity to craft agreements that meet the needs of both sides.

The chapter’s conclusion discusses some technology transfer pitfalls caused by unrealistic expectations. It emphasizes the role of senior management in the evolution of the culture (which must begin with top-level administration), the need for transparent conflict-of-interest policies, and the importance of sufficient autonomy and infrastructure support for technology transfer officers. A Technology Transfer Office (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 that are able—and willing—to take risks and university presidents to support them.

The term “Technology Transfer” describes a formal transfer of rights from scientific research to another party in order to use and commercialize new discoveries and innovations resulting from that research. The rights may be intellectual property (IP) in the form of patents, copyright, or other forms of IP, depending on the product of the research. This process includes:

  •      Funded research
  •      Invention disclosure
  •      Patents
  •      Licensing
  •      New startup ventures