New dawn for university tech transfer as US-UK powerbrokers join forces

SOURCE: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Both the US and UK governments are keen on increasing the economic return and value of state-funded research and development investment.

By U2B Staff 

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Top university technology transfer leaders in the US and UK are coming together in an unprecedented joint effort to commercialise more university IP.

In a high-level meeting with British government leaders, innovation and industrial chiefs in London on Monday, the heads of Technology Licensing Offices (TLOs) in the US’s most innovative universities – Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University – committed to the exchange of ideas and expertise with their academic counterparts in the UK.

In a tweet later, British Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Chris Skidmore called the discussion “fascinating”, also giving his undertaking to guide the transatlantic partnership.

“Fascinating discussion on Tech Transfer as Universities Minister with @stanfordOT @MIT_TLO @UCamEnterprise @ResEngland on the #TechTransAtlantic partnership- keen to ensure Unis help to foster the right culture for Tech Transfer as part of their KE and Civic mission #uniTTO,” he wrote.

MIT TLO Director Lesley Millar-Nicholson and Standford TLO Executive Director Karin Immergluck attended the meeting on invitation from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Cambridge Enterprise Chief Executive Tony Raven.

Representatives from the UK included MP Skidmore; David Sweeney, executive chair of Research England; leaders from HMT and on Industrial Strategy as well as the heads of technology transfer at the universities of Cambridge and Manchester, Knowledge Transfer Ireland and Cancer Research UK.

On Tuesday, Millar-Nicholson and Immergluck joined the new “6U” group of UK universities – Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial, Manchester, Oxford and UCL – which meets regularly to exchange ideas and best practices for the commercialisation of research.

“The value in bringing together leaders in university technology transfer, to share best practices and discuss commercialisation strategies for translating early-stage technologies into impact for society, cannot be overstated,” Millar-Nicholson said.

“Understanding the various challenges, and value drivers in different economic and innovation ecosystems, goes a long way to helping build effective and efficient translational models across the globe.

“It is my privilege to be invited to participate and contribute knowledge gained in my roles at MIT and also University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana.”

According to Cambridge Enterprise, the purpose of that meeting is to share expertise and identify areas for international collaboration.

Both the US and UK governments are keen on increasing the economic return and value of state-funded research and development investment.

In the US, this is embodied in the Return on Investment (ROI) policy Initiative for Unleashing American Innovation, which seeks to maximize the transfer of federal government’s science and technology investments into products that bring real-world value to the US economy.

In the UK, the government’s Industrial Strategy to boost productivity and shape a stronger, fairer economy, identifies universities as the nation’s engines for growth and innovation.

“The UK operates at the leading edge of world standard in technology transfer. But we want to build a more R&D intensive economy, and effective commercialization is a key driver towards the government’s 2.4 percent R&D target,” said Research England Executive Chair David Sweeney.

“So, we need to do more,” he added. “And we need to be open to innovations and best practices from across the globe. Our American cousins are skilled at commercialization.”

University technology transfer is key to realizing these national objectives. The role of the technology transfer office (TTO) is to help guide early-stage, research-based inventions into the commercial marketplace. On top of helping academics advance their creations to solve real-world problems, they bridge the gap between university and industry and fosters job creation to boost local, regional and national economies.

“The UK and US universities creating this new group are world leaders in the commercialization of university research,” Raven said.

“My UK colleagues and I are looking forward to working with Karin and Lesley in sharing, comparing and advancing international best practice in university research commercialization for the benefit of our economies and societies locally, nationally and globally.”