Conference Report 2015: Is Technology Transfer Working?

Sue Ratcliffe, IP Counsel, Swansea University and PraxisUnico Conference Committee member, reports on a talk by Jane Muir RTTP, Associate Director, University of Florida and Immediate Past President AUTM (pictured).

This thought provoking talk contrasted US practices with what is done in the UK. Knowledge exchange is not captured as part of REF here so the value of what Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) do is omitted from Impact studies. PraxisUnico is working to counter that by raising the profile of the excellent work KEC practitioners do and highlighting the role that they play, but visibility to University senior management is still an issue. Jane talked us through the slow rise in visibility of US Tech Transfer departments, where, though they have been active for longer, still many people at management level do not appreciate the complexities that TTOs have to deal with. This can result in barriers being put up.

To counter this AUTM has produced its own video to describe what TTOs do. Jane then went through various success stories which have made a real difference both financially and in terms of impact. Examples included the transition of a drink for replenishing heat stroke victims to the well-known drink Gatorade, resulting in $250 million revenue to the University of Florida and great publicity. Other examples included Sentricon for termite elimination, which has been used to preserve the Statue of Liberty.

Jane commented that a problem with TTOs is lack of visibility and marketing their success - through her marketing knowledge she has taken her department from a rundown office to a high profile office space, with 30 co-located companies, 763 jobs created and 36 million dollars in private investment. The marketing and profile raising paid off! Jane pointed out that to get noticed you need people to champion the TTOs and that although economic impact is important it is necessary to look at social impact. As a final take home message – marketing is key to creating awareness of the work of TTOs and realising the wider impact of technology transfer. Look for the value proposition in the knowledge or technology you are working with, rather than the science/knowledge per se.