What Is Technology Transfer?
In the case of research institutions, technology transfer (or tech transfer) is the process by which new inventions and other innovations made in the labs of these institutions are turned into products and sold. This is usually done in two ways: by licensing patented intellectual property to corporations; and by setting up start-up companies, which often license intellectual property made by faculty.
The Who, What, How And Why Of Technology Transfer
Many people are unaware how many of the goods and technological advancements we take for granted actually started in university and government labs, and then made their way to the marketplace mostly via technology transfer initiatives.
Gatorade and Google are two widely referenced examples. Still, there are thousands more which have impacted virtually every field of science and walk of life: life-saving drugs and medical devices, vaccines, agricultural innovations, alternative energy solutions, environmental solutions, new modes of transportation, computer hardware and software, robotics, cybersecurity, blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence and aerospace, to name a few.
A critical function of technology transfer specialists is to safeguard the intellectual property associated with these significant breakthroughs; this allows them to be licensed and commercialized for the benefit of society.
However, technology transfer has evolved into more than just defending intellectual property over time. Professionals in technology transfer are engaged in a variety of tasks which support the commercialization process including the following:
- Collaborating with lawyers to protect patents (and other forms of intellectual property)
- Evaluating the commercial viability of innovative ideas
- Promoting the commercialization of accessible innovations to prospective licensees and partners
- Teaching scholars about the ideas and tactics of commercialization
- Assistance in the establishment and growth of faculty start-ups
- Garnering money for research and start-ups in their early stages
- Forging strategic alliances and licensing arrangements
- Arranging competitions for business plans and new ventures
- Assisting in the establishment of innovative ecosystems and supporting institutions which foster economic growth and innovation
- Developing programs which encourage both students and faculty to create laboratories and maker spaces, and engage in entrepreneurship to contribute to the commercialization of these inventions.
Tech transfer is a sizable, diverse and difficult job. Indeed, it may be the most critical job that nobody knows much about.
Tech Transfer Best Practices
Successful technology transfer helps universities, businesses, regional and national economies, and society at large. It can provide money which can be invested back into research for institutions and the acknowledgment of its scientists and their ideas (which assists with faculty recruiting and grant financing).
Benefits to organizations include the potential to use research developments without incurring internal R&D costs, and releasing innovative goods which may help propel their operations ahead. Technology transfer is essential for regional and national economies because it fosters innovation, resulting in new initiatives and stronger sectors that provide more employment.
The advantages to society as a whole are immeasurable in terms of lives saved, greater health, a cleaner environment, and myriad technological advancements which add new skills and propel local, regional, national and worldwide economies ahead through innovation.