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Tech transfer brings universities 'more than money', says study

Academic technology transfer is 'critical' for sparking innovation in universities and helping to connect universities with commercial partners
Academic technology transfer is 'critical' for sparking innovation in universities and helping to connect universities with commercial partners

Academic technology transfer – the process of moving research from the lab to the market – provides intrinsic benefits to universities that go far beyond any potential revenues from licenses and royalties, say scientists.

Researchers from five US universities and the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), suggest the positive benefits of technology transfer for universities can be significant.

"Technology transfer describes the process of transferring scientific findings from one organization to another for the purpose of further development and commercialization," explained lead author Valerie Landrio McDevitt, current executive director of AUTM.

Data gathered from 82 US institutions responding to a survey conducted by AUTM reveal that in 2012 $36.8 billion in net sales were generated by startup companies from 70 institutions, and that this provided fulltime employment for 15,741 people. Additionally, 705 new companies were created based on university patented inventions and 591 new commercial products were launched for consumer use in 2012.

"In the academic setting, technology transfer is a critical component for facilitating and sparking innovation within universities and helping to connect universities with commercial partners in the community," said co-author Paul R. Sanberg. "Technology transfer can be truly transformational to a university and to the community."

"Having an active academic technology transfer program benefits individuals within the university community," added Sanberg.

Tech transfer benefits

Writing in Technology and Innovation, the team said that technology transfer and partnerships with industry bring many positives to academic settings, including:

  • A vibrant culture of entrepreneurship that promotes recruitment and retention of faculty who reap the rewards of innovation and the practical application of their research
  • Increased student success through participation in real world research, exposure to the patenting process, and increased job prospects
  • public benefits from applied research that seeks to address global challenges around health, the environment, technology and our changing societies
  • Economic development, with licensing revenue that boosts the economy, better retention of local talent, and new high-skill, high-wage jobs from university start-ups
  • Increased opportunities for funding through inter-institutional and interdisciplinary grants, new start-ups and international research relationships
  • Increased prestige and fundraising from a stronger university brand, and donor ties deepened through relationships with start-ups

"Strong and supported technology transfer programs, the availability of funding from seed through venture capital, serial entrepreneurs, administrative support, and community engagement all become critical components affecting the success of technology transfer, and the best opportunity for reaping the benefits of technology transfer arises when all of the necessary components come together and are supported," said McDevitt.

Source: Technology and Innovation
Volume 16, Pages 75–84, doi: 10.3727/194982414X13971392823479
Authors: Valerie Landrio McDevitt, Joelle Mendez-Hinds, et al

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