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Technology Transfer

What is Technology Transfer?

Technology transfer (TT) is the process of dispersing technology from one person or organization to another, typically with the intention of using that technology to improve or create products or services that can meet societal needs. With global borders shrinking thanks to computers making the transfer of information almost instantaneous, this field relies on global solutions to connect relevant users and stakeholders.

This process is usually seen with universities, governments, and businesses, either openly or covertly and either formally or informally, depending on the type of technology and the needs of the parties involved. Although the specific process can vary wildly, there are common steps that most parties incorporate:

  • Generating ideas or knowledge
  • Assessing and evaluating the viability of the technology
  • Protecting the intellectual property (IP)
  • Sourcing revenue to drive research and development
  • Marketing the technology for commercial purposes
  • Analyzing the impact for further work or exploitation

What is the Main Function of a Technology Transfer Office?

The main function of a technology transfer office is to use a dedicated center (often a university or licensing office) to secure patent and IP rights for one’s own use, whether it’s simply to continue assessing the commercial viability of a product or service or using that technology with previous projects.

To draw parallels to the patent application process, TT follows a similar path from start to finish; both tend to be dynamic processes that don’t typically follow straight paths, with adjustments made at various phases to assess the readiness of moving forward. Although TT jumps in at a later point during the patent application process, each has similar needs, e.g. drawing up business plans, securing funding, creating innovation ecosystems, etc.

Other Names for Technology Transfer:

  • Transfer of technology (ToT)
  • Tech transfer
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Intellectual property (IP)
  • Technology licensing
  • Technology transfer structures
  • Technology transfer office
  • Technology scouting

Why is Technology Transfer Important?

TT is important because it helps drive the innovation process forward. Simply filing a successful patent application isn’t enough to ensure commercial success; the technology needs to be sufficiently researched, developed, and brought to market, often in collaboration with other entities.

Think of the pharmaceutical industry. Before a drug can be commercially realized, the process can be traced back to lab testing. It’s rare that scientists have the knowledge and expertise found in other innovation areas, like IP, legal, research and development (R&D), sales and marketing, and others. To fully complete projects, TT is necessary so that experts in other fields can contribute their own efforts.

When successfully practiced, TT can create a platform with which to share ideas, it can offer protection for IP, it can provide non-governmental organizations with access to federal resources, and it can help all parties achieve results not possible on their own.