1. Research Knowledge Base
  2. Innovation and entrepreneurship

University Collaboration on Technology Transfer: An All-Island Feasibility Study 

Published: February 2006


This feasibility study, commissioned by InterTradeIreland on behalf of Universities Ireland and the Irish Universities Association, examines the potential for collaborative activity in the area of Intellectual Property (IP) management and technology transfer by the universities on the island of Ireland. This report provides some initial recommendations on how the universities on the island, North and South, might work together to maximise the benefits of exploiting the output of their research activity and proposes mechanisms to achieve collaboration and co-operation.

The universities are an important element in economic development on the island, North and South. There has been significant investment in research in both jurisdictions and there is now a need to optimise the exploitation of the results of that investment in a consistent way. The environment in which the universities operate is undergoing considerable change and significant steps have been taken recently at both national and institutional levels in both jurisdictions to support and develop IP management and exploitation in the universities. As a result of this, and of their history, each university is at a different stage of evolution in its ability to undertake the exploitation. However, all face the need to exploit the research output successfully and all face particular, and similar, issues in marketing and selling technology and IP.

The data was collected by a series of surveys of institutions, Technology Transfer professionals and external stakeholders, plus consultative meetings with Technology Transfer professionals. A project Steering Group oversaw the project. More detail on the methodology is given in Appendix 1.

There are 2 core recommendations for the universities which are outlined overleaf. The detailed recommendations are provided in section 7 and are grouped around:

  • Joint marketing
  • Expert professional input into policy and strategy
  • Training & entrepreneurship
  • Campus company support
  • Interaction with the Venture Capital community
  • Accessing external professional services
  • Shared expertise
  • Technology bundling
  • Single funding stream in Ireland. [1]

Core Recommendations for Universities Ireland

1 Joint Marketing

  • Establish a strategy and policy task force on joint technology marketing, drawn from Technology Transfer professionals and appropriate communications professionals. The task force should have the remit to develop and cost a comprehensive marketing strategy, working with external stakeholders where appropriate.

This was recognised as the primary initial area for collaboration. Promotion of the university research base on the island, North and South, building on the expertiseireland.com website, can only be beneficial to the universities and to the economic growth of the island. This combined with support for market research would:

  • Raise the profile and establish the position of the universities and the island as an R&D powerhouse
  • Provide a vehicle for the marketing of technology, services and facilities
  • Provide a common platform for addressing the multi-national company sector
  • Improve the perceptions of stakeholders and the business community both on the island, North and South, and worldwide
  • Inform policy by elucidating common strengths and positions
  • Provide a common platform for lobbying policy development, particularly at European level on R&D and Innovation policy
  • Facilitate technology take up from the research base by companies
  • Enable technology bundling for marketing purposes.

This group’s remit would incorporate the more detailed recommendations in Section 7 of the report.

2 Expert Professional Input to Policy & Strategy

  • Establish a sub group of Universities Ireland comprising Directors to advise Universities Ireland and the VPs for Research & Innovation on IP management and technology transfer policy issues, with an agreed remit which would include matters at European level.
  • Agree the level of support to be provided to AURIL-Ireland, and the reporting mechanisms.

The expertise of the group would provide the practical professional advice required to inform policy and strategy developed by the VPs. Where an approach was required or a policy development occurred which applied to only one jurisdiction, this would be addressed by forming a sub-group on an ad-hoc basis.

This sub-group would:-

  • Advise the VP groups and thus the Presidents/ Vice Chancellors
  • Act as the consultative point for all the external stakeholders on policy and process at all-island level
  • Provide a formal consultative route through sub-groups for issues specific to Northern Ireland or Ireland
  • Prohibit grounds for an oft repeated claim that universities were “picked off individually”
  • Increase collaboration as the group activity evolved.

THE WAY FORWARD: Implementation

This section provides the mechanism for the way forward, not necessarily the exact route to be followed to achieve the desired ends.

An implementation flow chart is provided.

1 The Vice-Presidents/Pro-Vice-Chancellors/Deans of Research (VPs) and the Directors meet in early 2006 to discuss and then agree the implementation and scheduling of the 2 core recommendations in this report that can be actioned by the universities and the phasing of the subsidiary recommendations. This should be part of what will become a regular series of 
meetings, ideally twice each year.

Their decisions will be put to Universities Ireland as a recommendation, with details of the planned implementation and clear lines of accountability. The recommendation would identify those who would form the core marketing strategy and policy task force, advising the larger group of VPs and Directors on what steps and resources were required. The marketing strategy and policy task force should include:-

people with professional marketing experience (external relations, corporate communications and recruitment areas are obvious examples from within the universities, but there are others in external organisations who may have more directly relevant experience) who would be co-opted to provide professional advice and guidance.

those among the Technology Transfer professionals with responsibility for marketing technology – those ‘on the ground’. Not every university would need to be involved at this level because arrangements for consultation would be put in place (see 2).

Ideally an external expert who might be seconded from an agency or from a commercial organisation. The universities may have marketing companies with which they work and whom they could recommend for this.

2 A university President/Vice-Chancellor should chair meetings of the marketing strategy and policy task force. The chair would provide regular reports on progress and bring forward to the 
VPs/Directors group any requirements for decisions on issues of principle.

3 The marketing strategy and policy task force should have the remit to develop and cost a comprehensive marketing strategy, working with external stakeholders where appropriate. Travel costs should be met by individual universities.

4 As a first step, before May/June 2006 the marketing task force should:

a) review the current licensing offerings posted on the expertiseireland.com website and develop a common template for such postings, with a process for refreshing offerings. A deadline of late June should be set for populating the website in the template format.

b) review available options for providing market intelligence and make recommendations by early summer 2006

c) develop within the same time frame a costed proposal for a marketing entity to actively promote technology

5 The marketing task force should be required to provide a full report and a detailed strategy to the VPs and Directors group by early summer 2006.

6 Implementation and support for the marketing strategy should be agreed by Universities Ireland in time for work to start in autumn 2006. This will require early engagement, through parallel discussions led by the VPs and Directors, with external agencies which may support the establishment of the new entity. Ideally the new entity should be recruiting staff before Christmas 2006.

7 The same group of VPs and Directors should return to examination of the other recommendations in March/April 2006 with a view to establishing how these might be delivered and resourced. Again, a recommendation should go to Universities Ireland from this group.

8 Separately, in support of the recommendation to develop expert input to policy development, Universities Ireland should:

  • establish a sub-group of all the Directors to provide advice and support, and to take forward the recommendations of this report
  • agree the level of support to be provided to this group and to AURIL-Ireland, and the reporting mechanisms.

The support could be put in place from the start of the 2006/7 academic year, or earlier if funding was obtained from external sources. A part-time secondment, that would act as a pivot for implementation of the recommendations in this report as well as supporting policy development and expert input would be appointed. This post could based in a host university, following the AURIL-UK model.  

[1] Ireland refers to the Republic of Ireland.