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What is Technology Transfer? (with Examples)

By March 29, 2021No Comments

Technology transfer is the innovation management that takes a novel invention from public laboratory—such as a university, hospital, or federal research team—to commercialization. This process, which AUTM describes as “transforming ideas into opportunities,” encompasses many steps. Technology transfer professionals guide researchers and engineers through the innovation cycle, starting with protecting the intellectual property through patenting and other methods. 

The technology transfer process also includes developing a monetization strategy. Many factors will determine the next steps, which may include finding and negotiating licensing opportunities, founding startups, and securing investors or other funding. Of course, throughout this innovation management process, technology transfer professionals are educating inventors on these topics. Finally, the profits from the commercialization of the invention will be reinvested into further R&D and education initiatives. 

Types of Technology Transfer

Depending on the invention and laboratory it originated in, how it’s used will differ. Some entities may use the technology in-house or share it with other researchers. Typically, the process involves a commercial transfer through licensing or selling the technology. There may also be a partnership or joint venture between public and private organizations to further develop and monetize the IP. 

The term “technology transfer” may be used in a more general sense than defined here as well. In some situations, it is used to describe the process of information transfer from public researchers to the greater good through publications, presentations, and “educated students entering the workforce.”

Technology Transfer Examples

There are hundreds of examples of successful technology transfer from universities and government organizations to market. Research taking place at Duke University, N.C. State University, and UNC Chapel Hill alone resulted in 41 startups and $63 million in licensing revenue in 2018. We may think of technology transfers as taking place in the biomedical, manufacturing, and other highly technical fields. While that is often true, these examples represent a wide range of innovations and organizations:

  • Microscale Combustion Calorimeter, a device developed and patented by the Federal Aviation Administration to test material flammability, was adopted by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Bicycle Therapeutics was spun off from research on “high affinity, specificity and stability” peptide drugs at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, part of UK Research and Innovation.
  • SPEAKall!, a technology designed at Purdue University and currently seaking licensing opportunities, helps children with autism communicate during remote learning and therapy.
  • Combplex was developed at Cornell University before the startup spunoff to further its mission of protecting bees from Varroa mites.
  • Geopipe, developed at the NYU Summer Launchpad program, uses AI to build “immersive 3D models.”
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