“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:
Upfront fees, milestone payments and licensing royalties make up most of the returns from technology transfer, but can also be in the form of sponsored research, one-off fees, and equity in the new venture.
Most academic and research institutions have formal technology transfer policies. You should understand the requirements of your institution to determine if you must disclose your invention to the institution or if you can independently commercialize your discovery. If you are related to an institution, check their specific policy.
ACCT Canada (Alliance for Commercialization of Canadian Technologies) is a useful resource on this topic.
Technology transfer offices provide an interface between industry and the institution. In order to liaise effectively with the technology transfer officer, it is important to understand what their function is, how they can help you commercialize your invention or innovation, what they will expect from you as part of the process, and what comprises their success criteria.
The figure below details the role of the technology transfer office at the various stages of development of an innovation as the office goes through the process of selling the raw material (your innovation) and packaging it so that it becomes commercially viable.
In general, the technology transfer process has four phases:
There are some institutions that make no claim to revenues from IP developed in their institutions and instead hope that successful entrepreneurs will ultimately make donations to back to the university that supported them. The approach to tech transfer is unique to institutions and is often based on their values and long-term institutional goals.
Keep the following in mind when engaging with your technology transfer office:
Seget, Steven. (2008). Technology Transfer Strategies: Maximizing the returns from new technologies. Business Insights Ltd. Available from http://reutersbusinessinsight.com/report.asp?id=rbhc0217.
Association of University Technology Managers. Retrieved April 19, 2009 from www.autm.net.