7. What role do technology transfer offices play in supporting commercialization and how effective are they?
Technology transfer offices in Universities and research centres (or TTOs as they are more commonly known), as well as Applied Research Offices in Colleges (or AROs), are created to help manage and protect the IP of a research institution.
They are typically at the forefront of protecting and commercializing IP generated by the activities undertaken at the research institution.
They are involved in liaising with industry for licensing and collaborative initiatives and are also involved in spin-off activities.
Frequently, TTOs, AROs and Research Centres operate with very small budgets and as a result it can be a struggle for them to fulfill their mandate effectively.
Also, sometimes their role can be confusing to a researcher who might assume that the TTO or ARO officer that they are working with will look after their best interests.
This is not the case and researchers – especially student researchers - should be advised that TTO or ARO staff are mandated to act in the best interests of the research institution – not the researcher.
Researchers should always consider hiring their own advisors to support them in commercialization efforts.
There is little doubt that TTOs and ARO’s perform a valuable function; yet at the public policy level there is some concern about research institutions giving too much IP away.
And yet, on the other hand, some industry partners claim that it is difficult for them to work with technology transfer offices because the agreements that are presented by the research institution are complicated and not balanced.
The challenge is finding the optimal balance in these IP agreements so that industry, especially Canadian industry partners, can fully engage with research institutions to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
This is why is it important for all stakeholders in the IP commercialization ecosystem to have in-depth understanding of the different forms of IP and how to use them strategically. This includes being skilled at negotiating agreements with third parties including private sector funders.