Technology Transfer Offices in Irish Third-Level Institutions have yet to Achiev

Monday, 13 November 2006

– The Challenge in Establishing a Knowledge Based Economy –

13 November 2006: Recently established Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) in Irish Third-Level Institutions will not achieve their full potential unless adequate investment is made in fostering links between academic institutions and specific industries and the transfer of technology from campus to the company is strategically managed. In their new book, 'Strategic management of Technology Transfer: The new Challenge on Campus', NUI Galway academics James Cunningham and Brian Harney argue this approach is critical if the Irish government is to deliver a real return on its promised investment of €3.8 billion in a Knowledge Economy.

Commercialisation programmes at universities need to be developed further to meet industry needs, ensuring that knowledge generated is translated into new products, processes and services. James Cunningham, Senior Lecturer in Management at NUI Galway, makes the following recommendations for the success of TTOs:

  • Effective creation, exploitation and commercialisation of research from third level institutions to sustain economic momentum.
  • Hard measures for performance metrics, with national and local targets to be put in place.
  • Soft measures (cultural aspects) to be put in place to ensure that the hard measures performance metrics will be reached.
  • The attraction to Ireland of the best PhD students in the world.
  • The internationalisation of Irish research and researchers in worldwide centres of excellence.
  • Researchers to become more commercially aware and actively seek market opportunities for their research with the support of well resourced Technology Transfer Offices.
Cunningham and Harney have reviewed national and international best practice in this area and present a framework to guide the strategic management of technology transfer in the Irish Third-level context. They argue that with a planned investment of €3.8 billion, delivering on the return to Ireland Inc is what will mark the success of the Government's Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy.

Technology Transfer Offices will play a crucial strategic role in this and Cunningham and Harney are the first to lay down specific guidelines on the role of TTOs and how they should be developed in order to ensure adequate return on this investment.

  • NUI Galway established a dedicated Technology Transfer Office (TTO), directed by Dr Daniel O'Mahony, in 2005 who is responsible for the strategic management and commercialization of university developed intellectual property and technologies and in forging links with industries leading to collaborative projects and co-development of new technologies. The TTO has recruited Commercialization Executives or Technology Transfer professionals in biotech, in ICT/engineering and in Business Development, it has invested in IP management systems, reinforcing the university's investment in technology transfer and technology commercialization. The TTO has also received support from Enterprise Ireland (EI) in filling other posts for Technology Transfer Professionals under the EI €30 million support scheme to strengthen technology transfer offices in universities. It also manages both the Technology Transfer Initiative program (focused on developing industry collaborative projects) and the EDP program which supports entrepreneurs in the formation of High Potential Start-up companies. Since establishment of the TTO at NUI Galway there has been a substantial increase in filing of invention disclosure forms and in patent filing, along with a sizable increase in licensing, in the spin-out of university developed technologies into new companies and in other technology transfer / commercialization activities – key metrics for technology commercialization identified in the new book.

    In light of the success of the Celtic Tiger, Ireland is seen as a model for developing countries, particularly the recent new entrants to the EU. However the tendency to highlight Ireland as a benchmark for knowledge economies is premature – we still have a long way to go.

    "Strategic Management of Technology Transfer: The New Challenge on Campus" by James Cunningham and Brian Harney is available from Oak Tree Press at http://www.oaktreepress.com/.

    – ends –

    For further information, contact: Dr. James Cunningham, NUI Galway, Tel: 091 493472/087 2655970, email: james.cunningham@nuigalway.ie

    or

    Ruth Hynes, NUI Galway, Press Office, tel: 00 353 (0)91 493361

    Note to Editors – About the Authors

    Dr James Cunningham is a lecturer in strategic management in the Department of Management, a research fellow for Centre for Innovation and Structural Change (CISC) and EMBA Programme Director at NUI Galway. Prior to joining NUI Galway he lectured in the Department of Business Administration, at University College Dublin and worked as a strategy consultant. His research interests encompass three areas namely, strategy practice, strategy and the environment and entrepreneurship and technology transfer. His research has been published in leading journals and strategy books. He is the co-author of Enterprise in Action, now in its second edition, and he has completed commissioned reports for Udáras na Gaeltachta, Forfás, ICSTI and the Centre for Innovation and Structural Change (CISC). In addition, James has made a number of guest presentations on the subject of strategy practice, technology transfer and entrepreneurship. He also held a visiting professorship at the Department of Management and Organisation at Penn State University,

    Mr. Brian Harney holds a first class honours BA degree from the University of Dublin, Trinity College and a first class honours MBS (Corporate Strategy and Human Resource Management) from the National University of Ireland, Galway. In 2004 he was a recipient of the Irish Institute of Management Sir Charles Harvey Medal as one of the most outstanding graduates of a postgraduate Business Degree in Ireland. Brian has published in leading HR journals including the Human Resource Management Journal and in Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations. Brian's other main research interests include Strategy as Practice, University Technology Transfer and the determinants of HRM. Brian lectures in strategy and HRM at NUI Galway, and is currently pursuing a PhD, funded by a CISC scholarship, at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge where he is also the recipient of a Cambridge European Trust Bursary and a Fellow of the Cambridge European Society.

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