In November 2018 I sent out a call to our community with a request to interview several KE professionals who are RTTP accredited. As usual in Marketing, I often work against tight deadlines to effectively plan communications in advance; this series of interviews was no different. Despite the time constraints, I was very fortunate to get 6 people to reply to my email call for interviewees. Thanks to their time and support I was able to condense and write an overview summarising their answers and opinions.
As I began to digest and summarise those first interviews, it was clear that I had not captured the full diversity of our community. Don’t get me wrong, the responses were very insightful. From it, I developed a solid grounding on what it means to be RTTP accredited by those who achieved it and, perhaps more importantly, how they achieved it. However, although I was able to get some views represented from America and Europe, I did not manage to interview any female Knowledge Exchange (KE) professionals.
I am pleased to say with a little more time, that changed.
A month after the campaign was launched, I was able to make contact with three female KE professionals. After interviewing them I now feel I have a much broader understanding from the community. Not just from a female perspective either, because I also interviewed our first KE practitioner from Asia. I am pleased to share with you these interviews, now incorporating professionals from Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust, Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute and LifeArc.
So, how have these new interviews compared with the originals?
It is still, and very much so, all about professional recognition and the value of certifications
Q1. What influenced your decision to seek RTTP accreditation?
Much like the original answers, I saw a repeat of the same sentiments from interviewees. What I found interesting is that two-thirds of the female KE practitioners I interviewed were introduced to RTTP not through PraxisAuril, but through ATTP directly. One interviewee said, “my decision to seek RTTP accreditation is based on the knowledge of ATTP”, whilst another said she “made a conscious decision to leave [her] career as a Research Scientist and become a Technology Transfer professional”. For her, it was important to seek the “true seal of certification” and, in her opinion, this was RTTP.
For both individuals, they wanted to be recognised in their profession and they believe in the value of the RTTP certification to achieve this.
For the third interviewee, seeking RTTP accreditation was because it was 'useful for CV building' and particularly for establishing herself in the sector in a different country. Moving from Netherlands to the UK, this interviewee felt that having RTTP certification would help her secure a good position. Later in her interview, she did also say that she thought RTTP helped her get her current job.
To me, this is an interesting perspective. KE professionals often have strong national networks as they build relationships through their role. They build trust through clients and colleagues, which helps them progress in their career. However, when they move away from this network they lose some of this reputation, especially if they are moving to a country, like the UK, which is perhaps seen as more developed in KE. This is when the RTTP accreditation provides real value. As a globally recognised accreditation, RTTP can show to any employer, in any country, that you have the skills and experience in KE to perform in a new role.
Professional development is important, with or without RTTP
Q2. Did you plan your path to RTTP accreditation?
In short, the answers were all yes... One of the interviewees expressed an almost identical take-home from the original series; “select your training courses in conjunction with your interests and gaps in knowledge”, regardless of provider/ATTP alliance association. RTTP will naturally follow.
However, there were some specific references that I found really interesting. Sentiments reflected in two of the three interviewees was that ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know’. These two KE professionals began their training as soon as they joined the profession, starting with the Fundamentals in Technology Transfer course. They started to understand the discipline and the breadth of the skills and learning objectives required for the role. From this very first course, they then planned to obtain all the skills relevant to them through additional courses.
As mentioned earlier, one of the interviewees had heard of RTTP through ATTP directly. They attended several courses to gain experience, using the ATTP guidelines and their list of courses as a reference.
A consistent message from all three of the interviewees was that training is very important, but not only training courses; one interviewee referenced mentorship several times. This, to me, really shows how the sector is changing. Knowledge Exchange was once a profession of only a few. These practitioners had a wealth of experience through conducting activities in these roles, and over a long period of time. As the sector grew, they then shared this knowledge to more and more people looking to move into KE/TT positions. Now we see not only courses, but mentorship as a means to exchange the knowledge of, well, Knowledge Exchange. These newly accredited RTTP professionals started from scratch, using training and mentorship as a way of extracting this knowledge from more experienced practitioners. Mentorship is a relatively new offering from PraxisAuril, with Mentorship Programmes only starting with a pilot programme in 2018. However, it is already clear that more in-depth and regular contact with an experienced KE professional can really transform the development of a practitioner new to the profession.
Lack of RTTP understanding – it’s not just other countries, but other professions too
Q3. Since becoming RTTP accredited has anything changed for you personally or professionally?
It was very rewarding to read how, for one interviewee, the RTTP accreditation helped her secure a new position in the sector when moving from Netherlands to the UK. Even the smaller sentiments, like increased confidence, are very positive effects of RTTP referenced in these new interviews. However, for every positive change, there seems to be, not a negative, but a moot point on RTTP. It is hard for accreditation to change anything if the wider community doesn’t understand what it represents.
We already saw this from our last interview series, as other RTTP professionals confessed having to explain what the letters RTTP meant. Another important point from the original interview series was that other countries are ahead in adopting the accreditation and thus the knowledge of it is wider. From the new interviews, I realised its not just location or seniority which defines how well understood RTTP is. It is also across professions/sectors. It would be excellent if this designation of RTTP was known worldwide across all professions, but that is perhaps a long-term goal for Alliance Associations like PraxisAuril. How can we expect other professions to recognise the RTTP accreditation if the sector it relates to directly isn’t fully recognising it?
Conclusions raised from the previous blog series are reinforced in the new interviews. It seems we need to do a lot more to communicate what RTTP is, and more importantly, what it represents. RTTP is, as mentioned before, a symbol. This symbol represents rich experience and a broad skill set in Knowledge Exchange. RTTP accreditation summarises training, role experience and achievements in KE into a single designation. It’s a quick way of seeing who is experienced and at the top of their game.
As the number of RTTPs grows, it will also spread the awareness of the accreditation. Many of the new entrants to the profession will be seeking to obtain RTTP, we are already seeing it. Perhaps those who have been in the industry for a long period will feel like they don’t need RTTP, and to a degree they may be right as the demonstrate experience with their CV and connections. However, if the new generation of KE professionals continues to adopt and utilise RTTP, it is only a matter of time before it becomes the signal for excellence in KE, and very visible from the top. Combine this with the rarity of RTTP, and then you can see how the RTTP designation could really distinguish you in the future.
Focus on training and seek support
Q4. What advice would you give a fresh KE professional looking to become RTTP accredited?
This was the one question that was most similar with regards to the interviewee replies. Not just across the three new interviews, but across the previous six interviews in November as well. The exact same sentiments were reflected, with the new cohort of RTTPs suggesting to first focus on your training, choosing courses which are of interest to you or help you grow the expertise within your department. RTTP will naturally follow.
Other similar answers included seeking support. But instead of being aimed at senior practitioners and encouraging them to volunteer and train those new to the profession, this time the advice was given to those new to the profession. That advice is to be open with your line manager. With their help set career goals and look to identify routes to reach these goals. Professional development can be encouraged from both the top and bottom. It was wonderful seeing a new RTTP join the elite group who approached their line manager first and essentially took the lead on their own professional development.
It was interesting to see how the newly accredited international KE professional approached the question. I think her advice is not only about helping those wanting to become accredited, but also good practice on how to approach Knowledge Exchange in general.
- To be honest;
- Respect partners’ needs;
- Pursue win-win outcome through a reasonable solution or deal structure;
- More conversation and communication;
- Big picture first, small points later.
Many of her tips are also echoed in not just earlier interviews with RTTPs, but also interviews with Industry on industry-academia collaboration. Themes such as ‘communication’, ‘respect’, ‘understanding the other partner’, and ‘seeking the right deal structure’ being mentioned many, many times.
More application tips on how to achieve the RTTP accreditation
Case study examples from the interviewees:
"The project I used in my application is the transfer and commercialisation of a suite of virtual reality software for children with the autism spectrum disorder. This project shows a technology-push transfer. It is a technology transfer from university to an enterprise. Its specialities lie in 1) It was an international technology transfer. The technology (a suite of virtual reality software for children with autism spectrum disorder) from City University of Hong Kong was licensed to Suzhou Guoke Medical Co. (a Jiangsu R&D company) and Changzhou Qianjing Rehabilitation Co. (a Jiangsu medical device manufacturer); 2) there were four parties playing different roles in this transaction. The City University of Hong Kong working as a technology supplier and licenser, while Jiangsu Industrial Technology Research Institute playing as a technology recipient and technology transfer organisation with government background, Guoke Medical Co. being a technology licensee and local R&D institute/company, and Qianjing being a manufacturer to commercialise the technology. Every party played different roles to realise the localisation and commercialisation of the foreign innovative technological achievement."
"In my application, I used a case where I led the evaluation of the idea, protection via the patent application, and engagement first with industry and later with different investors for the creation of a spin-out. I dedicated 2.5 years of my career to this case and, in parallel, I built up good links with different stakeholders and had to develop internal processes for it to progress. Some hurdles showed up along the way, where expectations needed to be managed and unexpected or historical issues solved, so I explained how I dealt with them and did my best to overcome them. I remember that the length of the achievement case is limited so you must focus on one case only, explaining well your contribution to it."
How does Oxford University Innovation apply RTTP?
Watch our Professional Development Programme Manager Georgina Wark interview Adam Stoten, Chief Operating Officer at Oxford University Innovation, on how RTTP fits with the OUI's strategy to professional development.