1. Why is IP generated by research institutions important?
At the heart of every research institution is the mandate of producing and disseminating knowledge.
Knowledge generated by research institutions is disseminated by educating students and through the publication of research. However, increasingly there is a recognition of the value of this knowledge being leveraged in contexts outside of student training and publication.
Specifically, research and knowledge are capable of being commercialized – in other words, these ideas can be brought to market as new products or services. IP is one of the ways in which research and knowledge are commercialized.
As a result, one of the functions of research institutions is to create the right environment for the commercialization of ideas so that the IP generated there can be effectively utilized, and the innovation driven by those ideas can benefit the public in the form of new products and services.
In addition, this IP can also be used to support businesses in their growth strategies.
The commercialization of IP can be done through technology transfer or through developing spin-offs.
Technology transfer in this context is defined as the process of transferring what has been developed by a research institution into the commercial sector for further development or exploitation.
This can be achieved through licensing, through collaborative arrangements between the research institute and third parties or an assignment of IP rights to a spin-off which is effectively a company that is set up with the purpose of leveraging IP developed at research institutions.
Both technology transfer and the creation of spin-off companies offer several benefits, in that:
- they facilitate the dissemination of knowledge for the betterment of society
- they allow the research institution to participate in the innovation ecosystem and support economic development
- they can also generate a revenue stream for the research institution
- they also reward creative and inventive researchers and staff
- and finally they help validate whether the research ultimately has commercial benefit
This diagram depicts how a research organization can benefit financially through commercialization of institutional IP.