Technology transfer (TT) is a collaborative process that allows scientific findings, knowledge and intellectual property to flow from creators, such as universities and research institutions, to public and private users. Its goal is to transform inventions and scientific outcomes into new products and services that benefit society. Technology transfer is closely related to knowledge transfer.
The Process Of Technology Transfer
- Research and Discovery — The first step of commercializing a university invention is discovering it in the research labs. Without this, there would be no new ideas or technologies to commercialize.
- Invention and Disclosure — If professors, staff, or students realize that a project may have commercial value, they should submit an Invention Disclosure Form (IDF) to the office on their campus responsible for managing inventions, usually named the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT), although some universities have different names for it. This is an important document for declaring your invention internally. It will allow the OTT to initiate the process of technology transfer. The OTT cannot initiate the evaluation process for any inventions until it receives an IDF from the inventor(s). It is important to remember that while this document can be used internally, it does not offer any legal protection to protect intellectual property (IP) outside of the institution.
- Evaluation by OTT — The OTT staff will evaluate the invention based on information submitted by the researchers. This includes aspects of novelty, patentability, and future commercial viability, commercial value, and other factors to determine whether the university should pursue IP protection and further development.
- Protection of IP — If the organization decides to invest in the IP and it has been through initial evaluation, they will start working with outside attorneys to file appropriate documents. One of the attorneys’ main responsibilities is to ensure that the proper individuals are named as inventors; this is a significant legal issue, and it’s worth noting that invention and authorship are two separate elements of involvement in a research project. Incorrect designation of inventors could result in invalidation of resulting patents.
- Commercialization — After initiating protection of the IP, the OTT staff will create a marketing plan for commercializing the technology. In order to best determine the commercialization path for your research, the organization will work with external corporate collaborators, as well as the inventors themselves, and consider a variety of factors such as the technology’s stage of development or whether it is ready for market. Once this information has been taken into consideration, a decision on which corporate collaborators should be involved in developing and marketing will be done after consulting with the inventor(s).
Why is Technology Transfer important? It’s the key to:
- Prototyping and developing the next life-changing innovation
- Identifying ways to disseminate non-patentable ideas, like apps and training
- Developing academic-corporate alliances on ground-breaking research projects
- Forming, incubating, and positioning for success the 1000+ start-up companies launched annually from academic research
- Supporting regional economic growth and new job creation — up to $1.7 trillion in gross industrial output and 5.9 million jobs since 1996
- Attracting and retaining talented faculty, staff and students.
Types of Technology Transfer
1. Technology push. This takes place when a company or university patents its invention and licenses it to other companies. This process is common with university-related inventions because universities are not in charge of manufacturing the inventions themselves, but they want to get their inventions out into the market
2. Market pull. This is when new technologies are developed in response to demand for a product or service. This is the most common way of technology transfer as it pulls up innovation in order to meet the demands of the market.
3. Technological spillover. This takes place when new advances in one area stimulate progress in another. It’s called a “spillover” because it’s like ideas spilling from one subject to another, or technology being transferred between countries.
Technology transfer combines research with real world products that can provide benefits for society and solutions to problems. At the same time, it generates income that can be used to fund further research and development. It is beneficial for small to medium enterprises, who can leverage outside expertise, and research.