PraxisUnico welcomes today’s publication of the Dowling Review of Business-University Research collaborations and in particular the recognition it gives to the role of technology transfer offices (TTOs) in the Review’s balanced and informed recommendations. We are pleased to see Recommendation 16 and the recognition that commitment to long term funding support (HEIF) for knowledge exchange and commercialisation will alleviate the pressures for short-termist revenue generation.
PraxisUnico works to raise the profile of TTOs and the many roles and responsibilities they have in the innovation ecosystem, managing relationships with multiple partners at the interface of research and application. We have long advocated that Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) is a people business and fully endorse the Review’s statement that “people are at the heart of collaboration”. PraxisUnico provides training and networking opportunities to KEC professionals at all career levels and this sharing of “expertise, sector knowledge and best practice” directly responds to Recommendation 19c of the report.[i]
The wide range of skills covered in PraxisUnico courses recognise that KEC is not just about transactions but is emphatically about building and supporting relationships for long-term collaborative outcomes. We will act on recommendations within the Review and use our sector expertise and experience and continue to explore how we can offer training and support for a wider range of audiences in the innovation system, such as medium-sized businesses and research students.
It is true that business-university collaboration is part of a “complex innovation system” involving many players and funding schemes. To address this PraxisUnico is committed to working with sector stakeholders to improve communication and ensure evidence-based reporting of KEC involvement in business-university collaboration. We are working with HEFCE on a Knowledge Exchange Framework which will include appropriate metrics and good practices to demonstrate and enhance the valuable role played by Technology Transfer Offices and other knowledge exchange and commercialisation units, and also with NCUB, Innovate UK, RCUK, KTN, and the IPO to inform, influence and help shape policy and deliverables for our sector.
Alongside the complexity of the innovation system, we acknowledge the clear message from the Review around the difficulties posed by IP and contract negotiations. The review helpfully recognises the governance issues faced by Universities as charities when entering into collaborative agreements, and will help in raising awareness of some general principles. PraxisUnico has supported initiatives such as the Lambert Agreements Toolkit and EasyAccess IP project, and PraxisUnico will continue to work with KEC practitioners, service providers, and stakeholders to unpick, understand and address the issues on both the demand and supply side of collaboration and commercialisation agreements. We note, however, that although there is reportedly high satisfaction among users of standard agreements (cited in paragraph 119) their take-up by collaborative partners is very low.
The Review’s recommendations reflect the wider institutional, cultural and environmental issues that have an impact on successful university-business collaboration. We look forward to continuing these important and interesting discussions and to working with our many stakeholder partners and KEC sector members to address them.[ii]
PraxisUnico’s submission to the Dowling Review can be downloaded here.
[i] To date, PraxisUnico has trained 3328 people on courses for knowledge exchange and commercialisation professionals ranging from the Fundamentals of technology transfer, to Business development and Strategic relationships. Around 200 people have attended our Business Development and Developing Strategic Relationships courses. Our 2015 conference saw around 400 people from diverse backgrounds exchanging views, experiences and practical advice on knowledge exchange and commercialisation activities.
[ii] PraxisUnico case studies provide insights into the work of KEC professionals and are available on request. We also refer readers to the information sheet ‘Technology Transfer in the UK’ which was compiled by a group of six UK universities and is available here.