Tech transfer: Surviving the valley of death


Tech transfer: Surviving the valley of death


Tech transfer offices increasingly look to launch start-ups when government funds for research dry up, but the lure of corporate partners is still strong. WIPR reports.

The so-called ‘valley of death’ can strike fear across technology transfer offices in the US. It arises when a government grant for a research project runs out but the researcher has yet to secure external funding from investors. Without this investment, research that may later be socially and economically useful, but is not yet commercially viable, can stall.

One of the big concerns for US tech transfer offices at the moment is that the valley of death is threatening to get wider because some corporations and other investors are becoming more cautious with their investments, following the financial crisis in 2008. Enter start-up companies, which provide another opportunity for academics to cross the valley and which are increasingly working with some US tech transfer offices.

From a tech transfer office’s perspective, the first step to success is, typically, forming a partnership with either a corporation or a start-up. The role of the office is to build the bridge between research and revenue, sometimes with an academic in the centre. Whether that means conducting market research, providing incubator space, or registering patents, the tech transfer office has to create a strategy that will lead the research to market and make money for the institution.

Tech transfer; patents; Columbia University; Yale; Harvard