Changing the game for tech transfer offices


Daniel Nadis

Generating knowledge and transferring it to the world remains the core mission of research universities across the globe. Daniel Nadis looks at how tech transfer offices can become more effective in this mission.

Since the Bayh-Dole Act, the ‘knowledge transfer’ mindset has been assailed with chronic doubts, and may be facing unanswerable questions. ‘Publish or perish’ does not sit easily with revenue maximisation, especially in the science and technology sphere.

Inside the technology transfer unit, patent prosecution, licence/spinoff negotiations, and collaborative research deals compete for time and attention. Few technology transfer organisations (TTOs) are in a position to be self-funding from transaction revenues, but with dependence on the university for cash comes head count limitations and other operational constraints, especially in difficult economic times.

Does this litany sound familiar? Laments such as these have been told and retold, but no quick fix or sustainable solution seems possible. In the lab, when every direction seems to be a dead end, researchers seek an entirely new paradigm: to address the fundamental challenges of sharing knowledge, while making money from protecting value, all in the context of difficult economic circumstances. What might such a paradigm be?

Research, technology transfer