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Tech Transfer Approach, Institutional Characteristics Influence Academic Research Commercialization

May 21, 2015

While there has been a significant amount of focus on identifying and cultivating academic entrepreneurs, two recent studies indicate that the environmental factors are equally important in the commercialization of academic research. These studies find that the commercialization approach of the tech transfer offices (TTOs) and institutional characteristics were vital in the success of academic research commercialization.

In a recent study from the University of Sussex (UK), Dagmar Weckowska examines most common types of tech transfer approaches used by UK TTOs. Weckowska found that most UK tech transfer offices employ two common approaches to commercialization: transactions-focused practice and relations-focused practice. Weckowska characterized transactions-focused commercialization practice as the treatment of outputs of scientific research as tradable products and is focused on completing IP transactions, such as sales and licenses. In contrast, relations-focused commercialization practice is focused on building relations among academics, commercial organizations, and university TT managers.

In the report, Weckowska found that many TTOs use both methods. However, some TTOs only use the transactions-focused practice. According to the study, the most dynamic, successful TTOs use predominately relations-focused practices that also include elements of the transactions-focused practice.

In addition to creating stronger relationships between academics and industry, the author contends that the relations-focused model provides more organic and vital learning experiences for potential academic entrepreneurs. These organic, informal learning experiences seemingly prepared the academic better for the rigors of entrepreneurship but more importantly provided them insight into the needs of industry, according to Weckowska. The author found that the insight gained from meetings with industry allowed academics to create technologies and other products that could quickly go to market or be purchased by existing firms.

In a 2014 study on the commercialization of academic nanotechnologies, the author found that although individual characteristics are important to the commercialization process, university support and culture were essential to the successful commercialization of academic research. The report identified that supportive policy, a good IP management system and an efficient technology transfer office are crucial in empowering academic entrepreneurs to produce innovations that are both technologically feasible and commercially viable.

Although formal education is a necessary component of building and supporting an academic entrepreneur, these two recent study indicate the environment around should not be forgotten in the process. 

commercialization, higher ed, tech transfer