Technology Transfer, the 'added value' of academic research


Institutional Communication Service

2 March 2018

The primary scope of universities are education and research, activities that are functional to society as a whole. But when a research project produces results that could lead to future economic benefits, how can a university exploit them? 

Nowadays, an additional responsibility of universities is the exploitation of economically interesting research results. An active technology transfer (Tech Transfer) and intellectual property (IP) management can enable academic research to be put to effective use for the public through collaborations with existing enterprises or with spin-off companies. But how does Tech Transfer work? 

At the outset, research results obtained by academics (faculty, post-doc researchers, PhD candidates) during their research activity are owned by the universities, according to existing laws. The challenge therefore is how to exploit the IP effectively. The most common method adopted by researchers is to publish their findings in peer-reviewed academic journals. In the the more technical disciplines – e.g. biomedicine and informatics – results can offer opportunities for further commercial developments, thus leading the universities to follow the legal procedures for the patenting of such results (patent prosecution). Another common method adopted for Tech Transfer is by establishing collaborations (collaboration agreements, service agreements, etc.), i.e. when businesses, industries or organisations turn to the academic world seeking those skills that are not available in-house. 

The Technology Transfer Office covers the active management of IP and negotiation processes at universities. The Technology Transfer Manager is a person, or team of persons, who deals with third parties (private enterprises, organisations, etc.) and manages a range of tasks, starting from the evaluation of inventions and the related patenting prosecution, through to the negotiation of collaboration contracts and licence agreements with industries, as well as supporting the creation of spin-off companies. At USI, the Technology Transfer Office is part of the Research and Transfer Service unit.