Exploring the Growth and Success of Knowledge Exchange Worldwide
December 2, 2020
WIPO and the EIE Program for Southeast Asia
By Richard S. Cahoon, PhD, AUTM Emeritus Member
John A. Fraser, MA, CLP, RTTP, AUTM Past President
Ashley J Stevens, D.Phil. (Oxon), CLP, RTTP, AUTM Past President
In 2014, Dick Cahoon, the former Director of the Cornell University TTO responded to a challenge from the Director of WIPO’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Andrew Ong: “Can IP play a role in economic development in developing countries, and if so, how?” This resulted in support for countries building IP-enabled innovation systems based on public sector research institutions (the US PSRI - Bayh-Dole model). The next logical step was how WIPO could assist universities and other PSRIs in Southeast Asia to develop the institutional and individual professional capability to capture, increase and accelerate their IP-based commercialization impact in their regions.
The answer was creation of the multi-year Enabling Innovation Environment (EIE) Project for IP and Technology Support.
Within the EIE project, WIPO works in synergy with key local partners to help develop capacities in areas of the innovation and technology transfer life cycle. This is accomplished with strong support of the Japan Patent Office and the government of Japan, who are the main sponsors of the project as part of their voluntary contribution to the WIPO-Japan Funds in Trust Industrial Property Global.
Through the project, countries have received help to accelerate the expansion of their own innovation ecosystem through the efforts of the TTOs of the participating universities and other Public Sector Research Institutions (PSRIs).
After discussions, and in-country visits to assess interest and determining which institutions were best placed to participate, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand became the first countries to enthusiastically join as beneficiary countries of the project, and Viet Nam more recently joined the project.
WIPO works with different actors across each country, such as government, academia and industry, to develop institutional and human capacities, and operates with a core principle of bringing together and supporting the establishment of a community of technology generating institutions.
To help achieve this, a Hub & Spoke structure was formed in each country. “Hubs,” typically the national IP Office or a government innovation support agency within the country, provide administrative infrastructure and close connection with their PSRIs, while “Spokes” are technology creating PSRIs (mostly universities) but include some government research institutions. Spokes participate though their internal TTOs, and a condition of participation is the involvement of senior institutional leadership. Many of these Spokes are also active Technology Innovation Support Centers (TISCs), another WIPO project supporting developing countries in obtaining better access to innovation related information.
Since commencing in 2016, WIPO and its experts have conducted a series of stand-alone national workshops with the participating countries on topics including establishing university and institutional IP policies, licensing, TTO management and IP asset evaluation.
Instrumental in bringing the necessary expert-knowledge to these countries has been the team of experts assembled by Dick Cahoon and Yumiko Hamano, as project consultants to WIPO. Over the years, these seasoned multinational tech transfer professionals (the “Experts”) supporting the project have included Ashley Stevens (US), John Fraser (US), Mike Martin (US), Surya Raghu (US), Andy Sierakowski (AUS), Cheryl McCaffery (Singapore), Elizabeth Ritter (Brazil), and Cengiz Tarhan (UK).
- Annual workshops focused on practical issues faced by technology licensing and management officers within universities, including developing institutional IP policies, licensing and basic commercialization activities.
- Providing general skills needed in the technology and innovation environment, including a series of WIPO oriented workshops focused on patent drafting and patent searching.
- Meetings with senior technology transfer decision makers from project countries, including Vice Chancellors, Research VPs/DVCs and TTO heads. Topics included the importance of IP/tech transfer to the PSRI mission, commercialization via well-defined technology transfer and knowledge exchange procedures.
- In 2018 (fortuitously prior to the COVID shut down), activities shifted to virtual mentoring of TTO case officers by Experts in the four countries. 10 IP/technology case projects were submitted and assigned to the six mentors. A 60-minute remote/video call occurred monthly for six months and included the TTO staff, appropriate researchers and the mentor. Topics included commercialization strategies, TTO procedures and institutional policies. Cost effective and enormously enhanced by interaction tools necessitated by the pandemic, remote mentoring has now moved into its third round of projects.
- Following presentation of concepts at in-country workshops and identification of project leaders in 2019, Ashley and John began providing mentoring to existing (Malaysia) or newly formed (Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand) national TT associations. Each association is now engaged in the creation of an Annual TT Licensing Activity Survey (modeled on AUTM Annual Licensing Surveys). Each is also creating a communications plan to identify how best to use metrics to communicate the value and impact of TTO activities to a broad range of stakeholders. Each of the projects is being pursued with enthusiasm.
- Still in progress is development of a “Guidebook” of self-guided knowledge tracks in which tech transfer professionals and support staff, institutional and government leaders frame key tech transfer issues and resources. The Guidebook will complement in-country training courses and be available through each country’s professional associations.
One of our observations is on the nature of innovation in the project countries. While some of the invention disclosures we have seen target global markets, many focus on local industries and agricultural systems. As an example, in Sri Lanka, the recently established R&D lab of John Keells, an EIE Spoke member, has developed a way to generate graphene-based supercapacitors directly from graphite (Sri Lanka produces the highest quality graphite in the world). It seemed to us that the benefits of this local focus are: (a) government will be pleased to see its universities addressing local issues, needs and opportunities; (b) there should be a good likelihood of securing a local corporate partner; and (c) they are unlikely to face competition from bigger and better-known universities and corporations in developed countries.
Below is a selection of one project from each country to give readers a sense of the creativity we are seeing:
Sri Lanka: Handloom Designs
The University of Moratuwa (UoM) is a small, highly regarded university in Columbo, focused on engineering. A new initiative, UofM Enterprise serves as an umbrella organization for all commercialization activities (e.g., incubator, TTO, industry advisory network, etc.). The World Bank has financed creation and operation of 16 PSRI Sri Lankan-based TTOs, including UofM Enterprise. Mrs. Ushani Hewage, a 2017 UoM graduate disclosed an invention that reduced the labor of creating modern, multi-colored designs on cloth for handlooms. In Sri Lanka, hand weaving by looms is a major industry. The mentor worked after hours with Mrs. Hewage, (a senior designer at Hayley’s, a global textiles business). The activity concentrated on developing a start-up business. A colleague of the mentor, Mr. Randy Fisher of Customer Discovery Pros came onboard to help with a customer discovery project to understand the potential directions (including customer needs, segmenting and finding product and market fit) and the viability and profitability of the start-up. As a result of the customer segmentation data gleaned from this Customer Discovery project, Ms. Hewage changed her business model and pivoted towards the creation of a branded fashion design house. Ushani Handcrafted + Quality Designs now offers unique textiles/clothing/shoes to costume designers, VIPs, and celebrities. Ms. Hewage has pitched her business to the UofM Enterprise industry advisory network to obtain feedback and identify potential collaborators. She has also submitted a successful application for funding support from Sri Lanka’s National Science Foundation. Mentoring continues with discussions of a license with friendly terms from the University to the start-up. A carefully designed intellectual property protection plan is being implemented.
The staggering growth of palm oil production in Malaysia and Indonesia over the past fifty years has reshaped the global market of fats and oils. Palm oil now accounts for around 30% of global vegetable oil production and is processed in Malaysia to value-added products. The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) is a government research organization that carries out research to support the industry. Many of the projects look to add value to waste streams and by-product streams from processing palm oil. Distilling palm fatty acid generates a by-product stream that contains palm oil fatty acids, carotene and phyto steroids, one of which is tocotrienol, a member of the Vitamin E family. Dr. Fu Ju Yen, a researcher at MPOB has developed a liposomal delivery system for tocotrienols that results in superior in vivo
absorption. Dr. Yen can tweak the charge, coating and size of the nano particles and can combine compounds inside the particles. She decided to target animal feed, which accounts for about 30% of the Vitamin E market. She has been working with a veterinarian who has a business importing animal feed additives and has identified a local company that is interested in building a plant to make the feed additive. A study in chickens has confirmed the superior efficacy that was seen in rat studies. Preliminary results from chicken study showed up to 7% higher egg production rate in nano-tocotrienols group compared to placebo. However, the result was based on a single dose. Dose calculation and cost benefit analysis will be carried out. Selected patent applications have been filed.
A local palm oil refinery has expressed interest in and has discussed terms for licensing the technology. MPOB in collaboration with the company has submitted an application for National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) Grant spearheaded by from the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MITI) to commercialize the technology, with target sectors being Medical and Healthcare. Target clients will be food manufacturers and the nutraceutical ingredient industry as the next generation products. In the next 6 months, the project will focus on plant installation with GMP certification, while R&D efforts aim to generate clinical data in human trials. A current limitation is a lack of knowledge on client requirements, so they are planning to provide samples to potential clients in order to generate feedback.
The role of mentoring was to identify the value proposition of the technology and its superior cost-in-use and to empower Dr. Yen to discuss the value of the technology with her industrial contacts.
The Philippines: Mosquito Repellant
An initial discovery of mosquito repellency in an extract of an endemic Philippine wild plant, evolved into the development of potentially valuable bioactive molecules. The university laboratory determined that a crude extract of the plant species was effective in mosquito repellency at low concentrations and was insecticidal at higher concentrations. Working with the WIPO EIE Mentoring team, it became apparent that the invention is potentially much larger in scope. Current hypothesis is that specific molecules in the extract have various bioactivities in arthropods, nematodes, protozoans, other animals, and microbes. The thorough evaluation of inventiveness of the initial discovery in the mentored tech transfer process, has led to a blossoming of the technology opportunity. In addition, opportunities for agronomic development of the plant and economic involvement of indigenous groups that are familiar with the plant, have also sprung out of the Mentoring process. Intellectual property has been documented and a strategy for protection is in place.
Thailand: Method for Inducing Microbial Mutagenesis to Produce Lactic Acid
At the beginning of mentoring, the TTO had already filed a PCT and some national-phase patent applications. Although the TTO intuitively knew the technology had value, they had not delved deeply into the market relevance and value proposition. Through mentoring, a solid business case was developed for the invention. Also, at the outset, the TTO did not have any plan for a proactive technology marketing campaign, one that would emphasize those countries where patent applications were pending. The Mentors provided significant assistance in showing the TTO how to find potential licensees and key contact names within those companies. In addition, the Mentors provided a listing of target companies in relevant countries. Perhaps, most importantly the Mentors encouraged the TTO to review with the former US patent examiner how the results are unexpected to overcome obviousness objections raised in the PCT search results. At the same time, the Mentors showed the TTO the value of the tangible biological materials that comprise the invention and provided specific guidance in how to control the ownership of such materials through well-crafted bailment contracts (i.e., Material Transfer Agreement), and appropriate license agreements. The mentoring process has established a platform for marketing the invention to target licensees, created the basis for long-term value-capture by Chiang Mai University through a bioproperty-based mechanism, and provided the basis for negotiating a license agreement. The next step is to reach out to the company contacts and engage in a typical pre-license dialogue followed by license negotiation.
It is hoped that by the conclusion of the WIPO EIE program, by connecting seasoned TT professionals from around the globe with TTOs in the participating countries that the Lessons Learned by others will be of use to the participants to accelerate their activities and hopefully avoid the mistakes made elsewhere.
We have found that the program is forming lasting professional friendships, a hallmark of the tech transfer community. The mentors found the same belief in the importance of, and passion for, our profession in the people they are working with who are the pioneers in developing tech transfer in these newer ecosystems.
October 7, 2020
Recent Tech Transfer Developments in East Asia
By Alwin Wong
AUTM International Strategy Committee, Asia Regional Chair
Immediate Past Secretary-General, International Strategic Technology Alliance
Technology innovation and East Asia regional economies have been affected by two global factors, the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical conflicts. Surprisingly, individual countries remain resilient with Korea and China having the strongest rebound. Korea has steadily made up the productivity loss it suffered in the second quarter, whereas China, after a near national shut down in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, proceeded on full steam with its economic stimulation engine to reboot the industrial activities towards the end of Q2. While Japan is yet to emerge from
the shadows of the pandemic, it is unlikely that the end of the Abe-era will
affect the established tech transfer framework and practice in the short term.
China is accelerating its top-down directives to improve tech transfer effectiveness by strengthening the weaker links of the tech transfer value chain. For example, programs and resources are provided to enhance the management practices of professionals to more effectively fill the structural gaps between research and the marketplace. In developed clusters of concentrated research institutes and universities, municipal governments are racing to establish programs and measures to recognize professionalism and expertise of tech transfer professionals, linking academic credentials, expertise, and professional accreditation and recognition. Governments are also providing additional economic motivation to researchers for commercializing their research outputs, to the extent of guaranteeing a minimum entitlement of 70% share of the commercialization benefits or the ownership of the IP associated with the invention. Sharing of international best practices in tech transfer remains very much sought after, although the usual channels of exchange and communication are reduced to the limitations of video conferencing.
Lacking national standards, the advocacy for structured education of tech transfer professionals has resulted in new post-graduate academic programs at the business schools of universities who lead in tech transfer activities. The Beijing tech community, with Zongguancun leading the pack, sought out Tsinghua to run a FinTech master’s program with a tech transfer concentration. In Shanghai, the municipal government established the new Institute of Technology Transfer to leverage university resources to augment the tech transfer development roadmap of the East China National Tech Transfer Centre. Global competition and trade restrictions, such as in the 5G market, have resulted in Chinese governments providing more emphasis in research commercialization to provide domestic innovation pipelines. The combination of COVID-19 and global tensions have affected the themes and activities at conferences and symposia. International collaboration and partnerships advocating for tech transfer take place less often, except for well-known speakers from the most established organizations and friendly nations that can be mapped across China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
For business and scientific professionals, the challenges of dealing with China today can be turned into opportunities. They include tech-related foreign investments, import and export control on technologies and components, intellectual property, cybersecurity, data privacy and government disclosures. However, opportunities will continue to be affected by international policies among global powerhouses for the near future.
Geopolitics have also reduced international training and exchange programs, as travel restrictions have been imposed among nations for most of 2020. Despite reduced international events, one noteworthy development in the region is the growing attention to the value of intellectual property in innovation and commerce. With Singapore’s Darren Tang taking WIPO’s helm as its Director-General for the next 6 years, the city state will definitely take bolder steps to become a leading partner among ASEAN members in creating synergy in regional innovation systems through related G2G IP programs.
The dynamics of geopolitics has inadvertently cautioned many Asian countries to revisit their innovation policies, IP business, and the technology marketplace in the wake of global decoupling and regional alliances, especially in ASEAN and the Far East. Much of the value of tech innovation companies lies within their intangible assets, most of which are protected by strategic business barriers and intellectual property rights. Singapore has aspired to become a regional IP hub where related IP transactions, trade and investments would take place. Sino-American tension, in an odd way, may have moved Singapore further toward this goal. Singapore’s potential to replace Hong Kong as the new super-connector between East and West could attract further technology innovation investment.
August 12, 2020
How the Pandemic Is Impacting Knowledge Transfer in Europe
By Laura MacDonald
Chief Executive, ASTP
AUTM International Committee, European Regional Chair
Associations Go Digital
As a dynamic, interactive region of many nations, universities and companies, European knowledge transfer (KT) players have been drastically impacted by the changed world in which we are all now living and working. However, the KT community is keen to understand, contribute and share ideas about how best to move forward. While an informal survey on this very topic is being rolled out over summer 2020 by ASTP (results shared early autumn), we see evidence of new activities and new terms of engagement.
For the national KT associations responsible for maintaining networks and enhancing the skills of the practitioners, the abolition of face-to-face trainings and networking events could have led to isolated offices and individuals. Given the parallel drive from our societies to play even more active roles in seeking solutions to the pandemic, an urgent sense of creativity and desire to stay even more connected has led to many associations developing online activities. These range from entire training courses with CE points, single masterclasses, and informal webinar meetings to share and discuss trends, problems and inspiration.
It seems likely that the new era of digital learning and sharing strengthens various communities. While everyone looks forward to resuming face-to-face engagements, our digital skills are being honed and some experiences are even enhanced through utilization of the technologies now widely available. This means that we can enjoy live events digitally, capture and record events to make them available virtually, and provide access to an even wider audience and their geographies.
The European Commission has concluded its work with strategic partners across the innovation ecosystem on guiding principles for accessing IPR needed for solutions in the current pandemic. A new manifesto was launched, with inspiration from many existing practices from around the globe. It will be fascinating to see how widely this new version of guiding principles will be embraced, and ultimately whether there is impact from this new approach to access IPR. The Manifesto for EU COVID-19 research, targeted to maximize the accessibility of Covid-relevant Horizon research results, was launched on July 28, 2020.
View the Manifesto
On the other hand, across Europe there continue to be many KT “business as usual activities” rolling out. Taking inspiration from a topic that has attracted attention over recent decades, a first EU Expert group jointly run by the European Commission Centre of Competence for Technology Transfer and ASTP led to a summary of recommendations for identifying metrics related to KT/TT activities. This first report was published earlier in 2020 and a second group is working to move the project further down the path to acceptance (report expected at the end of 2020). It is expected that the implementation strategy will bring consensus on data and that useful comparisons are possible.
In the meantime, ASTP will be running a webinar in fall 2020 highlighting the results of the first study. Details will be available to enable participation of the global KT community. While the work focuses on EU-active communities, there is much broader relevance. We will provide updates to the AUTM community on the content of the reports.
June 17, 2020
Knowledge/Technology Transfer in Brazil – Merging Historical and Personal Perspectives
By Shirley Virginia Coutinho
Executive Manager, Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro
AUTM International Strategy Committee, Co-chair for Latin America Region
Marli Elizabeth Ritter Dos Santos
AUTM International Strategy Committee, Volunteer for Latin America Region
Measured by the numbers of articles on ISI indexed international scientific journals, Brazil is ranked 13th in the world for scientific production, and 64th in innovation according to the 2019 Global Innovation Index
The governmental investment in scientific and technological research and development began in 1950, with the creation of the National Council for Superior Level Education Assessment (CAPES
) and National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET
). This led to considerable investments in science, technological development and innovation, but lacked articulation with from 1970-1980. In the 1990s, specific programs, institutions and special funds were created to address technological gaps and improve innovation.
In 2004, after a period of intense discussions, the “Innovation Law” (Law No. 10.973/2004) was enacted and became a prominent landmark and watershed event in the management of IP, knowledge and technology at universities and technological centers. Highlights of the legislation include:
- acknowledgment of the role of academic institutions in the innovation process;
- reinforcement of the importance of the industry-academy linkages for the country's technological development;
- removal of main bureaucratic obstacles; and
- mandatory establishment of technology transfer offices in universities and research institutions
Conflicts among laws and the persistence of bureaucratic obstacles led to a revision of the law in 2016. The new legal framework extended the scope and introduced improvements. Some pitfalls were also eliminated to clarify and enforce the public-private partnership and increase productivity and competitiveness of the enterprises through innovation.
The National Forum of Innovation and Technology Transfer Managers (FORTEC
) was created in 2006, to represent professionals dedicated to the management of innovation policies and activities related to IP and knowledge/technology transfer in the bodies designated by the Innovation Law as Technological Innovation Nucleus (NITs). FORTEC was registered as a non-profit association in 2011, with a mission to develop a training mechanism of human resources to support TTOs and disseminate best practices. Since then, FORTEC has expanded its membership from 42 in 2006 to more than 400 members today.
The FORTEC network includes national counterparts (Innovative Enterprise and Entrepreneurs Associations), such as ANPROTEC
, ABIPTI ANPEI
, Brazil ANGELS
, and international counterparts as AUTM
in the US; Réseau Curie
, France; Praxis-Auril
, UK; RedOTRI
, Spain; RedOTT
, México, and RedViTec
, Argentina. In addition, FORTEC has become an important partner of the National Institute for Industrial Property (INPI
), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO
) and its educational and acceleration programs.
The collaboration with AUTM began in 2009, in Marli Elizabeth Ritter dos Santos’ term as the first president of FORTEC. In doing research for her doctorate, she contacted AUTM for best practices in technology transfer training. This resulted in licensing a Portuguese translation of AUTM’s Technology Transfer Manual (TTM). With the support of the Brazilian Ministry of S&T, she launched the Portuguese manual at the 2010 Annual Meeting of FORTEC, which was fundamental in supporting FORTEC’s training of technology transfer professionals. Fruitful collaborations between AUTM and FORTEC continue, with participation in AUTM’s International Strategy Committee, the Technology Transfer Leadership Summit and the AUTM Annual Meeting.
Today, all university and research centers have mobilized to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including manufacturing of personal protection equipment and artificial respirators, and implementing humanitarian actions. The FORTEC board of directors is leading a group of associates involved in these actions throughout the country.
Marli Elizabeth Ritter Dos Santos
The history of academic technology transfer in Brazil mirrors my own history. In 1997, I faced a challenge to structure and put into operation an Office of Technology Transfer at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. At that time, there was neither legislation nor traditions in university-enterprise linkages. The scenario was full of obstacles, including a lack of protections for research, or facts about transferring them to the market, a heavy bureaucracy, and no procedures to facilitate innovative entrepreneurship. When I began working as a TTO manager, there were few national references for structuring offices. So, I looked abroad for some experience to inspire me. I discovered AUTM’s Technology Transfer Manual, which was useful for implementation of institutional policies and protections of IP and tech transfer.
Shirley Virginia Coutinho
After 32 years in management at Brazil’s largest mineral and logistics company, Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (“Vale”), I began a new career as a volunteer liaison for the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and the Brazilian business community to help launch new business ventures with recent graduates and their technology-based products and services. As a member of the task force working on Brazil’s “Innovation Law,” I met Marli Elizabeth Ritter dos Santos - a learning process and a friendship initiated for the benefit of my new career. The Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Office at PUC-Rio, was just starting when I became its Executive Manager for innovation enhancement, technology transfer and IP negotiation. To help further expand these efforts, in Brazil and other developing countries, I worked as a specialist for WIPO and INPI in Brazil and served as president of FORTEC.
April 22, 2020
Technology Transfer in Canada
By Darren Fast, PhD
Director, Partnerships & Innovation, University of Manitoba
Regional Chair for Canada, AUTM International Strategy Committee
Canadians comprise AUTM’s largest group of technology transfer professionals outside of the United States, with 155 current members. We are spread across a very large country and many of our TTOs are small. But despite that, we are quite well connected with each other. This is accomplished through in-person meetings such as an AUTM’s Canadian Region Meeting, which sadly won’t happen in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Canadian Luncheon held at AUTM’s Annual Meeting. A Director's Forum is held annually at the Canadian Region Meeting, which enables key decision makers to discuss processes and best practices unique to our work. These meetings generally draw a representative sampling from across Canada, bolstered by a strong speaker lineup engaged by the hard-working meeting steering committee.
In addition to the connections we have through AUTM, we also have a more informal group called CTTP (Canadian Technology Transfer Professionals) that has a monthly conference call for anyone interested in technology transfer. This group also has an active bulletin board where people can seek and find help from their Canadian peers. We also have a few provincial groups in some of the more populated provinces.
Technology transfer in Canada is in many ways very similar to that of the much larger US community to our south, but some important differences. For example, Canada doesn’t have a Bayh-Dole equivalent, thus each institution must create its own policies around ownership of inventions. The policies range from 100% inventor-owned to 100% institution-owned, with many institutions offering joint ownership with inventors.
At the 2019 Director's Forum, we identified a number of key issues facing the Canadian tech transfer community. A summary
of those issues was released by AUTM.
AUTM’s next Canadian Region Meeting
will be held May 10-12, 2021, in Montreal, Quebec, and we invite you to attend.
February 26, 2020
Technology Transfer in Africa
By Andrew Bailey, PhD and Diana A. Owusu Antwi
Co-chairs of the Africa Regional Committee
AUTM International Strategy Committee
As our technology transfer colleagues are aware, universities typically mature from a teaching focus, into being research driven. Comprised of fifty four countries with three official (and countless local) languages, Africa has considerable economic diversity.
There are four regional Research & Innovation Management Associations (RIMA) in Africa. The Southern African RIMA (SARIMA
) is the most established with a regional membership of around 330. It is a member of the Association of Technology Transfer Professionals (ATTP
), offers courses and holds an annual conference that enables members to attain RTTP status. AUTM members are warmly invited to attend the 2020 Sarima Conference
, being held Aug. 4-7 in Botswana.
Sixteen universities belong to the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA
). While the members have TT activity, patent filings are generally modest. Discussions around innovation and corresponding benchmarking are now a focus of annual meetings.
The Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS 2
) is a regional initiative that supports the growth of new businesses through strengthening innovation ecosystems and promotion of cross-border collaboration. SAIS 2 is supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA
), in partnership with the Ministries responsible for Science, Technology and Innovation of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC
) Secretariat. SARIMA provides technology transfer training and mentoring to regional universities.
South Africa has the most developed TT community, with local legislation (IP Rights from Publicly Financed R&D Act (IPR Act
), similar to the Bayh-Dole Act. The IPR Act requires public universities to have or be a member of a TTO. The National IP Management Office (NIPMO
) implements the IPR Act, and has made government funding available for development of South African TTOs. NIPMO gathers TTO metrics through its Inaugural Baseline Study
The South African funding environment for university start-ups is challenging, though establishment of the University Technology Fund by the SA SME Fund in January 2020 aims to bridge the gap between early-stage technologies from universities and South African venture capital funds.
Most universities outside of South Africa are in the very early stages of, or are not yet focused on technology transfer, attributable to limited funding, lack of resources, incentives or capacity, or the “publish or perish” syndrome. However, some universities have initiated measures to help to promote innovation and technology transfer.
In Ghana, TTOs were established in five universities and research institutions with the support of the World Bank and the Danish International Development Agency to the Government of Ghana. The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation is also spearheading establishment of a Ghana Innovation and Research Commercialisation Centre.
The absence of incentives at a national level for businesses that support Ghanaian university research has contributed to limited research collaboration between academia and industry, with a relatively small number of industry funded research projects undertaken by universities and research institutions. Nonetheless, universities in Ghana are making concerted efforts in establishing university industry collaborations in a bid to solve industry and/or societal challenges, drive innovation and economic development.
Nigeria’s National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP
), is under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, and regulates the inflow of foreign technology. NOTAP is also responsible for the commercialisation of viable research and development results, inventions and innovations.
Currently, there are 24 AUTM members from South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and Nigeria. African universities have the potential to facilitate job creation through knowledge and technology transfer, and it is important that governments, universities and key stakeholders establish adequate measures in support.
Andrew Bailey, PhD is Senior Manager: Innovation, University of Cape Town, and President-Elect, SARIMA. Diana A. Owusu Antwi is Research and Development Officer, University of Ghana.
December 4, 2019
Where is the Knowledge Transfer Profession Going? - Insights from ASTP’s Fall Meeting
By Dr. Martin Raditsch
European Regional Chair, AUTM International Committee
In addition to its dynamic Annual Conference each May, ASTP
, the pan-European association of knowledge transfer professionals, runs a much more intimate event known as its Fall Meeting. This year the event was held in Leiden, The Netherlands for 2 days of workshop-based exchange of best (and worst!) knowledge/tech transfer (KT/TT) practices on a wide range of practical, and even philosophical, topics. I am delighted to share the following snippets of content with our global colleagues, and welcome feedback on the topics and our conclusions.
In a workshop on Publishing TT Experiences
(facilitated by Christian Stein, General Manager, Ascenion GmbH,
Germany and Tom Hockaday, Independent Consultant, Technology Transfer Innovation,
UK), we discussed the relevance of publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals (such as International Journal of Technology Transfer
), where typically only researchers in the areas of innovation or patent management publish their findings. Since we do not need publications in our careers as scientists do, and we don’t reach our target audiences by utilizing these channels, the question posed was an important one: What’s in it for us?
There was consensus among participants that we should
publish and share our outputs and success stories, and that we should utilize many different channels to do so. Examples included providing guest comments along with researchers who are driving papers, partnering with similarly-focused publications (as some of us recently did in a special tech transfer edition with LES), enhancing the length and quality of the stories we share on our own websites and newsletters, and encouraging a greater exchange of information to trigger compilations of experiences.
The second snippet is from the closing plenary debate, where three veteran KT/TT protagonists presented their views on The Future of our Profession
. Sean Fielding (Chair, PraxisAuril, University of Exeter,
UK) delivered a highly recognizable picture of ever-increasing engagement by the whole innovation ecosystem of KT/TT. Evidenced by increasing governmental expectations, sometimes coupled with capacity support, his view was that KT/TT professionals are becoming essential, and perhaps even the most important, element of current and future university activity. He predicts our future as professionals will continue to shine brightly. Alison Campbell (former AUTM Chair, currently Head of Knowledge Transfer Ireland
) looked back at the entirety of her work experience, together with strong insights from current global activities, and concluded that Sean is not correct. In fact, she predicts that the current position of KT is likely to remain exactly where it currently sits, balanced somewhere between the academic/teaching missions of universities and the outreach audiences from industry. In other words, valued by some and effective in many cases, but unlikely to become essential across the board of all disciplines.
Finally, we heard from Henric Rhedin (past-president ASTP, University of Gothenberg
, Sweden), who envisions KT professionals disappearing from future university landscapes. The reason? Not because KT/TT will cease to be relevant—quite the opposite. He predicts that current KT/TT professionals will be replaced by embedded, multi-skilled people affiliated entirely within the academic groups. Thus, a stand-alone community of professionals could disappear.
The debate concluded with a vote on 2 questions: What outcome did we prefer
to see, and which did we actually expect
as the most likely? Sean’s position convincingly won the first vote, while Henric’s was deemed most likely in the future scenario. Does this mean we are in fact the ultimate optimists? For further discussions, please consider joining the 2020 Annual Conference
, May 27-29, 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal.
October 9, 2019
Technology Transfer in Chile and Opportunities in Green Tech
By Bernardita Araya Kleinsteuber, PhD
Executive Director, Hubtec Chile
Member, AUTM International Strategy Committee, Latin America
2019 has been an active year for science and technology in Chile. In particular for clean and green technologies, as Chile is about to host the Conference of the Parties (COP25
) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC
) meetings. As the adverse effects of climate change have become more widely acknowledged, a wide range of initiatives to promote research and technology transfer have opened.
The Paris Agreement of 2015
warned that effective climate action efforts would require the commitment of governments, private sectors, financial institutions, academia, local communities and individuals. But how much can academic inventions and technology transfer efforts contribute to this global goal?
At COP25, high-level representatives from 197 countries will gather to promote active policies for caring for and protect the planet. Discussions will focus on care of the oceans and Antarctica, importance of electromobility and renewable energy, enhancement of the circular economy and the protection of ecosystems, forests and biodiversity. All key areas where Chile has competitive advantages.
Chile´s economic development agency, Corfo
, has launched a Clean Technologies Consortium that will be key to lithium research and operations in the Atacama Desert. It seeks to make Chile a world leader in clean technologies by providing $194 million (US) in public funding.
Chile is highly vulnerable to climate change. In its region there is a high exposure to forest fires and also large areas of fresh water conserved in the form of glaciers and other bodies of water that face tremendous threat if the planet's temperature continues to rise. Chile serves as an important example to other Latin American countries where several factors drive the growth of sustainable technology. The region is also turning to new green solutions for old development problems typified by pollution, water shortages, waste disposal and traffic congestion challenges in its cities.
Technology transfer in Chile is a rapidly evolving field. There have been numerous efforts, mainly led by Corfo, to support the installation, promotion and growth of technology transfer offices.
Before 2012, tech transfer activities were scattered among the largest universities, with each forging efforts to promote academic-industry relations. In that year, the creation of a national association for technology managers (RedGT
) was critical to economic development. In 2012, RedGT and Corfo collaborated to fund the installation of tech transfer offices within 20 universities and an R&D Center. The program provided a strong kickoff for tech transfer activity in the country, plus institutional support and widespread adoption of IP policies and best practices.
Subsequently, Corfo continued its support in 2015-2016 by funding and launching the Technology Transfer Hubs Program, a collaborative model for globally commercializing the most promising Chilean technologies. The program included participation of public and private universities from different regions of the country and represented a national effort to support academic technology transfer.
Today, three hubs lead the tech transfer efforts in Chile. HubTec
and the Andes Pacific Technology Access, APTA
, include participation of twenty-six universities, eight national research centers, four international research centers and influential industry and VC partners. Additionally, the Manufacturing Development Society (Sofofa
), the biggest industrial association in Chile, has formed an open innovation platform with support from Corfo to tackle demand-driven industry challenges and work in collaboration with university-based technology transfer hubs.
The hubs support all tech transfer activities at partner universities, with HubTec focusing on early engagement with industry. Each hub faces similar challenges: promoting collaboration, increasing TTO capacities, engaging researchers and building the necessary trust to advance collaborative work.
This year also saw the installation of the new Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation
. In 2020 all tech transfer initiatives, offices and hubs will migrate to this new institution. One of the main challenges of the Ministry is promoting engagement between academia and industry and rearticulating the institutional conformation of science and innovation ecosystems.
Chile has more opportunities than ever for partnering with industry, private and public partners to generate meaningful impact on society. It demonstrates that with the support of political leaders, engaged academic research and committed industry and private partners there will be sustainable development and a greater impact on the economy.
August 14, 2019
Understanding the Tech Transfer Landscape Across Asia
By Alwin Wong and Linara Axanova
Asia has a geographical stretch beyond most people’s imagination, spanning over 50 countries from Japan to Israel, each with a unique culture, state of development, and corresponding needs and interest in what tech transfer can do for various stakeholders.
East Asia: China and Japan
With China rising as one of the most sizable economic bodies in the world, the state has focused much of its effort in creating innovation systems for sustained development beyond infrastructural growth. Advocating the need for innovation for impact, universities and research institutes in China view commercialization of their inventions for economic development and structural innovation as fundamental. The Commercialization Law Amendment (2015), similar to the Bayh-Dole Act, gives institutions the right and the responsibilities to convert their research output to economic outcomes.
The International Strategic Technology Alliance
(ISTA) draws together universities in China to facilitate partnerships with industry. It works with AUTM to provide professional development to those seeking the RTTP (Registered Technology Transfer Professional
) credential. Hong Kong, home to five leading universities, continues to benefit from well-established legal and financial systems trusted by both China and the West, and is expected to play a pivotal role in refining the fast growing innovation and technology development clusters.
In Japan, the University Network for Innovation and Technology Transfer
(UNITT) is a leading university-based organization aiming to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of university-industry technology transfer activities. The Japanese tech transfer practice follows a similar approach to that of North America, except its practitioners (which are more concentrated in the academic communities) work with collaborators with both academia and industry under structured programs and government initiatives. Presently, Japan emphasizes program-driven endeavors over entrepreneurial projects for capturing market opportunities.
West Asia: Russia and Kazakhstan
Few countries have grappled with governmental disruption on the scale of the break-up of the Soviet Union and its transition to a market-based economy.
Innovation management in the USSR was once a highly centralized process. Technology transfer in post-USSR Russia began to develop in the early 2000s when initial governmental funding was provided for creation of regional technology transfer centers (TTCs) and university technology transfer offices (TTOs). The number of TTOs remains low compared to the number of research organizations – 118 TTOs in 2016 (about 5 percent of all universities. Currently, commercialization activity at most universities occurs through start-up companies.
A 2012 Federal Act allowed universities to become stakeholders in university start-up companies, and led to formation of over 2,200 new companies by 2016. There are currently several challenges for technology transfer efforts in Russia. First, there is no equivalent of the Bayh-Dole Act. University inventions are considered state-owned property and universities must endure a complex process before proceeding with licensing. Other complications include low awareness of and interest in university inventions from the commercial sector, a need for trained TTO staff to evaluate, market, and license IP, the need for financial support for patenting and other expenses, and a need for innovation to be viewed as necessary to a competitive advantage.
On a positive note, a recently created National Association of Technology Transfer
(NATT) is working on legislation similar to the Bayh-Dole Act which, if passed, is expected to stimulate the development of technology transfer in Russia. The Association also focuses on education in the field of innovation and building communications and interactions between the commercial sector and research entities. There is hope that these activities will stimulate interest in technology transfer and support the scientists and inventors at Russian universities and research institutions.
Kazakhstan experienced a deep recession post-USSR, but stabilized in the 1990s and showed strong growth for over a decade. The government continued to increase national R&D to boost science and technology, but innovation and value creation lagged. With support from the World Bank, Kazakhstan is focused on strengthening its domestic innovation capabilities to increase productivity. A non-governmental professional association, the Alliance of Technology Commercialization Professionals
(ATCP), was formed. ATCP promotes and develops best practices for building technology transfer capacity at universities, technology parks, business incubators and companies.
For a better understanding of the tech transfer communities throughout Asia and other regions, consider registering to attend the AUTM Asia 2019 International Conference
organized by Yissum, of The Hebrew University, and the Israel Technology Transfer Network (ITTN) in Jerusalem, November 4 - 7. The event will give you an in-depth overview of Israel’s successful ecosystem, international best practices, and networking with investors, entrepreneurs, and professionals from around the world.
Alwin Wong, RTTP, is the Director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Chair of AUTM’s International Strategy, Asia Regional Committee.
Linara Axanova, PhD, is the Associate Director of the Penn Center for Innovation, University of Pennsylvania and a member of AUTM’s International Strategy, Asia Regional Committee.
June 19, 2019
Thriving Around the Globe with a Shared Vision
By David Gulley, AUTM International Strategy Chair
If you’ve been to one of AUTM’s Annual Meetings and interacted with the hundreds of Association members who attend from around the globe, you know tech transfer is thriving worldwide with a shared vision.
AUTM may be based in the US, but it is comprised of members from more than 60 countries. Today the Association’s International Committee members represent Africa, Asia/Australasia, Canada, Europe, and Latin America. They have different perspectives, work within different contexts, and hail from different cultures. Yet there are many common threads. All face similar challenges and they share a commitment to the profession and its global impact, with a shared desire to support its evolution and to empower the members of our profession.
US efforts in academic tech transfer began in 1980 with the US Bayh-Dole Act. In the years that followed, other countries passed their unique laws or developed their own policies to leverage their R&D capabilities, utilize their patent system, and align resources to promote economic development and the well-being of their citizens. Today we have many strong TT systems across the globe and AUTM is strengthening its connections with them.
More than ever before, AUTM is focused on identifying strategic alliance opportunities in which AUTM can partner with like-minded associations and groups interested in strengthening their region’s tech transfer capabilities. We’ve completed a landscape analysis of each region that provides a view of economic and innovation factors, and university strengths.
Already our newest alliances are well underway. In Mexico, for example, we’ve partnered with RedOTT (Tech Transfer Office Network), welcoming 50 new members this year and are planning professional development webinars and courses most needed by our Mexican colleagues. And in Thailand, we have developed a rich strategic dialogue and are discussing opportunities with multiple organizations.
Our strategic alliances take many forms, such as:
- Professional Development: Webinars and on-site courses that can be co-developed.
- Professional Credentials: Support for local professionals to gain recognition through Registered Technology Transfer Professional (RTTP) certification through access to AUTM training and events
- Association development: Assistance and guidance to newer or emerging associations for development towards becoming an Alliance for Technology Transfer Professionals (ATTP) Association.
- AUTM Membership: Regular and electronic for AUTM content, and special AUTM e-groups access to share ideas and problem solve.
- Policy and Impacts: Assistance with national policy development; guidance and information on performance metrics, impacts, and surveys.
- Global Connections: Tools and methods to connect globally for licensing partners/R&D collaborations/investment.
How can you get your organization or company involved? Consider attending AUTM Asia, Nov. 4-7 in Jerusalem, hosted by Hebrew University.
Or volunteer with AUTM. Our international committees are always looking for help. If you are involved in tech transfer outside the US, or have relevant experience and knowledge, reach out
Being a global association isn’t just about having members from around the world. It’s about embracing the growth and success of the profession world-wide. AUTM wants to be that Association.
David L. Gulley, PhD, RTTP, CLP, is Founding Director, Technology Transfer Office at the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust.