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Technology transfer is the process of sharing of skills, knowledge, technologies, methods of manufacturing, samples of manufacturing and facilities among governments and other institutions to ensure that scientific and technological developments are accessible to a wider range of users who can then further develop and exploit the technology into new products, processes, applications, materials or services. It is closely related to (and may arguably be considered a subset of) Knowledge transfer. Related terms, used almost synonymously, include "technology valorisation" and "technology commercialisation". While conceptually the practice has been utilized for many years (in ancient times, Archimedes was notable for applying science to practical problems), the present-day volume of research, combined with high-profile failures at Xerox PARCmarker and elsewhere, has led to a focus on the process itself.

Transfer process

Many companies, universities and governmental organizations now have an "Office of Technology Transfer" (also known as "Tech Transfer" or "TechXfer") dedicated to identifying research which has potential commercial interest and strategies for how to exploit it. For instance, a research result may be of scientific and commercial interest, but patents are normally only issued for practical processes, and so someone -- not necessarily the researchers -- must come up with a specific practical process. Another consideration is commercial value; for example, while there are many ways to accomplish nuclear fusion, the ones of commercial value are those that generate more energy than they require to operate.

The process to commercially exploit research varies widely. It can involve licensing agreements or setting up joint ventures and partnerships to share both the risks and rewards of bringing new technologies to market. Other corporate vehicles, e.g. spin-outs, are used where the host organization does not have the necessary will, resources or skills to develop a new technology. Often these approaches are associated with raising of venture capital (VC) as a means of funding the development process, a practice more common in the USmarker than in the EU, which has a more conservative approach to VC funding. Spinoffs are a popular vehicle of commercialisation in Canadamarker, where the rate of licensing of Canadian university research remains far below that of the US.

Technology transfer offices may work on behalf of research institutions, governments and even large multinationals. Where start-ups and spin-outs are the clients, commercial fees are sometimes waived in lieu of an equity stake in the business. As a result of the potential complexity of the technology transfer process, technology transfer organizations are often multidisciplinary, including economists, engineers, lawyers, marketers and scientists. The dynamics of the technology transfer process has attracted attention in its own right, and there are several dedicated societies and journals.

In recent years, there has been a marked increase in technology transfer intermediaries specialized in their field. This was stimulated in large part by the Bayh-Dole Act and equivalent legislation in other countries, which provided additional incentives for research exploitation.

See also



  1. EU Report on EU/global comparisons in the commercialisation of new technologies
  2. State of The Nation 2008 - Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation System

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