Tech transfer not returning investment, say academics

4 Aug 2006

Offices to foster linkages between third-level institutions and business are yet to return the investment made in them, academics at National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway have claimed.

The future success of recently established Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) in Irish third-level institutions will depend on developing connections between them and specific industry sectors and then managing the transfer of technology from the campus to the company, argued NUI Galway professors James Cunningham and Brian Harney.

The pair have published a book that is said to provide the first framework for managing technology transfer in an Irish context, with findings based on international best practice. The book puts in place specific guidelines on the role of TTOs and how they should be exploited to bring returns on the Government’s planned investment of €3.8bn in its science, technology and innovation strategy.

Dr Cunningham is a lecturer in strategic management in the department of management, a research fellow for the Centre for Innovation and Structural Change (CISC) and EMBA programme director at NUI Galway. Brian Harney holds a first-class honours MBs in corporate strategy and human resource management from NUI Galway where he lectures in those subjects.

Cunningham said that the effective creation, exploitation and commercialisation of research from third-level institutions was critical if Ireland is to overcome threats and sustain economic momentum. “It will necessitate putting in place hard measures for performance metrics with national and local targets and it will also mean putting in place soft measures (cultural aspects) to ensure that the hard measures’ performance metrics will be reached,” he said.

“Ireland should be attracting the best PhD students in the world and also needs to encourage the internationalisation of Irish research and researchers in worldwide centres of excellence. In addition, this means researchers have to become more commercially aware and be actively seeking market opportunities for their research with the support of well resourced TTOs,” he added.

The book is titled Strategic Management of Technology Transfer: The New Challenge on Campus and is available from Oak Tree Press.

By Gordon Smith