Korea Association of Unoversity Technology Transfer Management
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Before initiating a planning process for a new TTO, a research organization must first address three fundamental questions.
If the institution’s primary mission is education, or if its mission does not support research as a primary institutional focus, establishing a TTO may not be warranted. Without a strong research focus, the organization would do well to find alternatives for meeting the occasional need for technology transfer services.
With more than twenty years of experience, the international Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM)1 has identified four key reasons for public research organizations to advance academic technology transfer:
If these reasons make sense for your institution, then it may be time to consider a TTO, contingent upon the following two questions.
All technology transfer opportunities flow from research. The 2003 AUTM Annual Licensing Survey™ indicates that, on average, one formal disclosure of invention was made for every US$2 million in research activity at research universities in the United States. One U.S. patent application was filed for every US$5 million in research expenditures, and one technology transfer or licensing agreement was executed for every US$8.5 million in research expenditures.2 These statistics indicate that public research organizations review many more innovations (disclosures of invention) than are acted upon. Clearly, substantial research is required to generate technology transfer opportunities. Using the above averages, a TTO in a public research organization with a research budget of US$100 million might expect to record 50 disclosures of invention, 20 patent applications, and 11–12 license agreements per year. An institution must therefore determine whether its research volume is sufficient to warrant investing in a new TTO.
The quality of research accomplished within an institution is another critical variable. This may be affected by an institution’s ability to recruit and retain world-class researchers who are at the cutting edge of science and engineering advancements. Furthermore, pursuing basic research may generate fewer opportunities than would applied research. If the estimated quantity and quality of research are below the AUTM averages cited above, the institution should use alternative means to address its occasional need for technology transfer services.
Time may be the greatest predictor of success for a TTO. In other words, the longer a TTO operates, the better will be its cumulative results and performance measures. This makes sense intuitively: as innovations, patent applications, and license agreements are added cumulatively each year to the institution’s portfolio, there is a greater chance that a fraction of these will eventually generate returns. Technology transfer practitioners suggest that it typically takes five or more years for technology that is licensed to an industry partner to result in a marketable product. Thus, according to these practitioners, TTOs require seven to ten years to be successful, regardless of how one chooses to measure success. Institutions should expect similar experiences and be prepared to subsidize the office for many years to come. A commitment to support a TTO is more than a two- or three-year financial obligation.