Technology transfer offices

17.9 In recent years, most research organisations have established dedicated units or companies to facilitate technology transfer. These units take a variety of forms and have differing responsibilities, including obtaining patent protection, negotiating licensing and MTAs and, in some cases, establishing spin-off companies. They are also referred to by a range of titles, including ‘business liaison offices’, ‘technology transfer units’ or ‘commercialisation arms’. They may be units within the organisations or companies wholly owned by the organisation. In this chapter they are collectively referred to as ‘technology transfer offices’.

17.10 The overall functions of technology transfer offices include:

  • identifying technology developed within the organisation that may have a commercial application;

  • managing intellectual property issues, including facilitating patent applications, licensing university innovations to the commercial sector and advising on the terms of research agreements;

  • coordinating industry access to research projects within the university that require financial investment to develop the commercial potential of innovative technologies and products; and

  • offering assistance with gaining government support for research and development, including tax incentives and grant and loan schemes, such as the Australian Government R&D Start program.[5]

17.11 Technology transfer offices take different approaches to aiding technology identification and transfer. These include:

  • Taking a decentralised approach, where managers of innovation and commercial development are appointed to each faculty to assist with identifying innovative technology, to work with the faculty on business development matters and to liaise with the technology transfer office’s staff.[6] This approach allows for the development of expertise around particular areas of research and commercialisation.

  • Maintaining a register of companies and consultants who are willing to assist university researchers in the management and commercial development of intellectual property.[7]

  • Taking an active role in helping researchers through the process of transfer and commercialisation, including through the provision of educational programs.[8]

[5] DP 68 provided an overview of the funding support programs available for research commercialisation: Australian Law Reform Commission, Gene Patenting and Human Health, DP 68 (2004), Ch 11.

[6] See, eg, UniQuest, About UniQuest, <> at 16 June 2004.

[7] Melbourne Research and Innovation Office, Technology Transfer, University of Melbourne, <> at 16 June 2004.

[8] For example, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research’s Business Development Unit works closely with researchers to keep abreast of research progress and runs small, focused educational seminars on intellectual property and commercialisation issues to raise awareness and increase skills: Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Consultation, Sydney, 10 September 2003; Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Consultation, Sydney, 10 September 2003.