Are you adapting your marketing pitch for each business that you engage with?

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With the FY16 year-end now behind us, it is time to take stock of our achievements, collect metrics and prepare reports for our stakeholders on our performance over the previous 12 months. My employer, being a government owned entity is no exception and has to ensure it meets the expectation of the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Supporting actions arising from the “Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research” agenda, these expectations have considerable focus on the utilisation of science to increase the competitiveness of Australian industry.

This forced reflection has made me analyse how I engage with industry and how I alter my approach based upon industry vertical, company size and my understanding of that company’s culture.  This may seem completely obvious, but we often fail to consciously make these differentiations and recognise that not all companies are created equal. For example the interaction and value proposition I present to a biotech startup is completely different to an engagement I will make with big pharma. Conversely, the business challenges of a startup are completely different to those of large pharma.

With this exact thought in mind, I am really looking forward to attending the KCA Annual Conference, and more specifically the session aptly titled “Not all Companies are Created Equal.” At this session we will hear from companies of different sizes and industries about how they innovate to overcome their business and technical challenges. It is shaping up to be really insightful.

This year the KCA Annual Conference will be held in sunny Brisbane at the Victoria Park Golf Club on 1-2nd September 2016. The conference theme is “Innovation is a state of mind,” and will focus on shaping thinking around commercialisation, entrepreneurship and industry engagement. Registration closes on the 17th August. I hope to see you there.

Dr Tim Boyle, RTTP
Leader, Business Development, ANSTO
KCA Volunteer

We’re walking in sunshine!  #KCA2016 is your ticket to get the ins and outs as to what the NISA means for TT practitioners here in Australia

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There has never been a more exciting time to be in technology transfer.  There is no doubt that the Turnbull Government’s championing of innovation through the Ideas Boom has thrust technology transfer into the sunlight; where previously it soldiered on unseen in the shadows.  The Ideas Boom is templated as the National Science and Innovation Agenda (NISA) and what a policy it is.  The NISA encompassing a range of innovations that stimulate our sector to encourage engagement between academia and industry.  It galls us to travel the well-worn wheel rut that we as a Nation we occupy the bottom rung of the OECD ladder for industry-research engagement.  The NISA aims to move us up that ladder with a range of initiatives which includes incentives for researchers and publicly-funded research institutions to work more actively with industry; provide access to capital for start-ups and incentives entrepreneurs to create start-ups.  The talk of the town is start-ups.

For our researchers, the NISA provides a fundamental intervention aimed to changing the culture of academia such that universities will receive competitive funding based on their actual engagement with industry as measured by impact and levels of industry funding as opposed to the traditional metric of peer-reviewed publications and grant income.

This matters to publicly-funded research institutions including our universities, our researchers and our technology transfer professionals.  We will all have to stretch and cover the industry engagement drive and balance our existing roles.  Positive change is good.

It cannot be stressed enough just how significant this holistic intervention is.  Superimpose the Medical Research Future Fund across the top of the biomedical landscape in Australia and we have a sector on the boil for access to capital.   Do all these measures mean that the translation of research outcomes to productivity gain for our industry sector can be realised now?

The opening session of the KCA Annual Conference puts the NISA on to the dissection bench as we tease out the pros and cons of this policy that will result in a dramatic change in the technology transfer landscape.  Come along and join your peers on September 1 to discuss how the changes affect you.  Revel in the sunshine and Register now.

Dr Dean Moss
Vice-Chair, KCA
CEO, UniQuest

Great science & great marketing make the perfect match

If you ask the question ‘What is marketing?’ you’ll receive a variety of answers and invariably one will be ‘getting someone to buy something that they don’t want or need’.

There are lots of definitions, but basically, ‘marketing’ is understanding your customer so well that you can satisfy their needs profitably. The words ‘marketing’ and ‘promotion’ are often incorrectly used interchangeably as promotion (i.e. advertising, selling, PR, advertising, social media) is only a small subset of marketing, much like chemistry is a small subset of science.
Good marketing relies heavily on solid ‘marketing intelligence’ to get the elements of marketing (product, price, place and promotion) right.  To be successful getting your product out there, you need it to have the relevant features and
benefits a customer requires, at a price point they are willing to pay, promoted to them in the most efficient way (based on customer preferences), and available in a place (whether online or instore) convenient to buy and/or acquire.

Principles which are all highly relevant to tech transfer practitioners.

selling techGetting great science out into the community requires careful marketplace analysis and applied marketing thought.  Among the many challenges faced by tech transfer practitioners is the fact that most of the time, the amazing research outcomes they are trying to sell are developed without early commercial consideration.

The “Know your market” session at the 2016 KCA Annual Conference will provide attendees with an overview of marketing fundamentals to help TT practitioner’s better market their office to their internal clients and marketing their technologies and services to external clients.  Natalie Chapman from gemaker will help you to better understand some of the key principles of marketing in tech transfer and Robin Knight from IN-PART will share what other offices are doing globally to raise the profile of what they are doing and market their technologies.  Head over to the KCA website for more details and to register now.

KCA takes 5 with TT young gun to talk #KCA2016

GiuliaGThe countdown is on to the Innovation is a State of Mind themed 2016 KCA Annual Conference.  KCA sat down with technology transfer young gun Giulia Gizzi from LaTrobe University to hear why she plans to attend the 1-2 September event being held in Brisbane.

KCA: How many years have you been involved in the commercialisation profession?

GG: 1.5 years

KCA: What is your current role?

GG: Commercialisation Administration Officer at La Trobe University

KCA: How many tech transfer conferences have you attended previously?

GG: Just one, KCA Annual Conference 2015

KCA: What is your reason for attending this year’s KCA Annual Conference?

GG: The Annual Conference is the best place to network and meet your colleagues who work in the commercialisation space, but also allows you to learn from their experiences. Being such a fresh face to the industry, it’s interesting to hear about the various tech transfer stories, both successful and sometimes disastrous, and learning the lessons from those who have worked through these cases. The conference enables an early career professional to learn through its sessions, but it can also be done by speaking with attendees who you may not normally interact with during your day-to-day work.

KCA: What session are you most looking forward to on this year’s program?

GG: I am really keen to hear the views presented in the first session: ‘Welcome to the Ideas BOOM: What the National Innovation Statement means for tech transfer in Australia’. NISA has had a huge impact on our sector, particularly emphasising that the Government is interested and willing to invest within our industry and across the broader innovation system. At the time of the conference, some items of the Agenda will have come into play, and also the political environment may have changed, so it will be quite interesting to hear from key members of our industry and the impact of NISA from various point of views.

KCA: Thanks for your time today Giulia.  See you in September!

To keep in touch with Giulia, follow her @giulia_gizzi on Twitter.

Check back in a few weeks time when we speak with some of mid-career members to learn more about why they plan to come along to the 2016 KCA Annual Conference.  Check out the full conference program on the KCA website.

 

The KCA Annual Conference
The Ideas Boom is upon us and all technology commercialisation professionals need to be across what this means for our sector. The Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA) Conference in Brisbane 1-2 Sept is the place to go to learn more about the latest trends, insights and best practice shaping innovation and commercialisation during this time. Come along to expand your network of technology commercialisation professionals from research organisations across Australia and New Zealand, and hear from an array of exciting presenters and panels talk to this theme.

 

Google gives student startups a boost at the KCA Accelerator Demo Day

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The nation’s best recent graduates of university accelerator programs came together last Tuesday in Sydney to pitch to an audience of over 100 drawn from Australia’s innovation community at the inaugural KCA Accelerator Demo Day.

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In true Dragon’s Den style, teams pitched their businesses to industry experts and got money-can’t buy time in front of key opinion leaders from the likes of Blue Chilli, Blackbird Ventures, StartupAus and Google.

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Teaching high-impact entrepreneurship and immersing university students in a diverse range of hands on business training has become a high priority for Australian research organisations in recent times.  Many now run their own accelerator and incubation programs, all aimed at supporting students, staff and alumni to commercialise ideas, access seed funding and learn how to grow and scale their businesses.

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Student entrepreneurship is a major national focus right now.  As our nation transmissions away from the resources boom towards an ideas boom, our research organisations are stepping up to educate and mentor students along the entrepreneurship pathway and encourage staff to think about commercial application of their work.

Many organisations running accelerator programs are looking for new ways to get their participants in front of active investors, customers and partners. In collaboration with Google, we have accumulated the best from accelerator programs across Australia to promote interaction and exposure for new businesses” said Rohan McDougall, Director IP Commercialisation, Curtin University.

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Entrepreneurship across universities and research institutions should be encouraged to thrive and be an option for every student to consider as they commence their studies.  We’re pleased to have been able to host the first National Demo Day and can’t wait to see what teams achieve going forwards” said Sally-Ann Williams, Engineering Community & Outreach Manager, Google.

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The eight businesses pitched spanned a variety of different sectors, and ranged from early-stage right through to revenue generating.

A summary of the businesses and accelerators that participated are as follows:

Chatterbox is an education technology startup developing a specialised online learning platform for students and teachers of debating and public speaking.  Chatterbox went through the University of New South Wales’ FounderLab program, a program that enables startups in need of software development to receive professional software engineer services whilst they continue their search for a permanent technical co-founder.

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Me3D was founded with the specific purpose to create the world’s best 3D printing educational package.  Me3D manufactures its own hardware through a partnership with Greenacres Industries, and provides essential training and consulting services.  Me3D was part of the University of Wollongong’s iAccelerate business incubator which aids startups and new businesses via two streams: Start and Advanced.

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Hypetap is a platform which connects agencies, brands and influencers to work on marketing campaigns together.  Hypetap was part of the University of Melbourne’s five-month Startup Accelerator program known as MAP.  MAP provides teams AUD20,000 in funding (no equity taken), and are provided structured mentoring, free office space and pitching opportunities in Sydney, Melbourne and Silicon Valley

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Storekat is an aggregation service for Self-Storage providers that functions as a peer to peer platform, with a purpose to expand their online presence in the marketplace.  Storekat was part of Curtin University’s Curtin Accelerate program, a ten week program which assists teams to bring  ideas and businesses closer to commercialisation.

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Vald Performance is a sports technology startup commercialising an innovative hamstring testing system. The Nordbord is the fastest, easiest and most powerful way to train, screen and monitor hamstring strength.  Vald Performance has been through the bluebox Accelerator which enables high potential startup teams from the QUT ecosystem to develop a business model, minimum viable product and investment grade pitch.

Anonalytix is a cloud based technology that offers a new approach to data anonymisation by producing synthetic data sets which cannot be re-identified. Anonalytix is part of the CSIRO ON program, which fast-tracks Australian science and technology innovation for real world outcomes. Open to all Australian universities and PFRAs, ON is supporting helping Australia’s best researchers and their partners translate great science and technology into commercial ventures.

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Miriad Technologies have developed the “Miriad Spectrometer,” a device to identify the existence and concentration of chemicals in different mediums such as food and the general environment.  Miriad Technologies was part of the University of Sydney’s INCUBATE startup development program, which is open to students and alumni and focuses on technologically innovative companies.

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Certified Renewable certifies businesses that use 100% renewable energy.  Certified Renewable has been a part of InnovationACT, The Australian National University entrepreneurship program for students, staff and alumni of Canberra’s major tertiary institutions. Teams are mentored by local entrepreneurs, participate in workshops and seminars, and the top teams pitch for a share of the $50,000 seed pool.

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KCA and Google are working together to do this all again in 2017.  Keep checking back for future dates.

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Latest data shows university/industry engagement happens in many ways, most of them bigger and more effective than commercialisation

KCA welcomes the publication of the National Survey of Research Commercialisation by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

The National Survey of Research Commercialisation (NSRC) has been collecting data relating to the sale of public sector intellectual property since 2000.  The data collected for 2014 can be used in conjunction with previous year’s data to paint a picture of some of the outcomes resulting from Australian research engaging with business and government both locally and internationally.

In terms of high level indications from the data, we note that:

  • Company creation has fallen significantly
  • Commercialisation activity remains stable and
  • Industry partnerships have grown significantly

The approach to company creation within universities has changed tangibly over the past few years, with less of a focus now on spin-out creation (where the university would have a licensing and equity interest in the company), and now more of a focus on supporting the surge in student startup activity.  These are considerably different activities for universities to be involved with, and are often carried out in different parts of the university.  We will work with the Department to explore how all startup activity is appropriately captured in future years.

Given the long lead/lag-time on IP commercialisation, which is often ten years or more, the recent outcomes we see for commercialisation tend to result from activity which occurred quite some time ago.  It is also important to note that the influence of Government policy and support programs takes a significantly long time to feed into the system, and current data reflects the end product of programs past.

On the other hand, company creation and research partnerships happen across a much shorter timescale (typically 1 to 3 years) and the data may be suggesting a trend that has been anecdotal until now.  That is, the sector has been moving over the past few years, from having a very strong focus on IP commercialisation and spin-out company creation, towards one of research partnerships with industry.

There are two particular data sets that we want to highlight:

  1. Income from commercialisation

Table 5.1.3: Income yielded from active LOAs (AU$ Million)*

2012 2013 2014
PFRAs 294 45 46
UNIs 36 74 61
MRIs 29 9 29
Totals 358 129 136

 

Table 5.1.3. shows that the university sector, as a whole, generated AU$61million of income from licences in 2014.

  1. Income from other engagement mechanisms

Table 5.5: Value of contracts, consultancies and collaborations (AU$ Million)*

2012 2013 2014
PFRAs 417 391 384
UNIs 951 1,168 1,352
MRIs 40 39 72
Total 1,408 1,598 1,808

 

Whereas when we look at table 5.5, we see that the university sector generated AU$1.3billion of combined income from consultancies, contract research and development and collaborations, which are activities which reflect research organisations working with industry.  Interestingly, this figure of income which relates to money earnt from industry for our research and consultancy is two orders of magnitude greater than commercialisation income – and it’s growing at a continuous rate.

The data therefore suggests that engagement mechanisms such as consultancies, contract research and collaborations appear to be much more accurate reflection of activity and engagement between business and research compared to the traditional measure of commercialisation of IP.

But is this a unique feature of the Australian system?  The answer is no.  Data from the UK analysing HEIF data on university/industry engagement shows the spread of activity across the range of engagement mechanisms:

Knowledge exchange mechanism % Revenue
Contract research 34
Collaborative research 23
CPD and continuing education 20
Consultancy 11
Regeneration and development programmes 5
Facilities and equipment services 4
Intellectual property (including sale of shares) 2

 
TOMAS COATES ULRICHSEN: Knowledge Exchange Performance and the Impact of HEIF in the English Higher Education Sector Report for HEFCE April 2014

This table surprises many, but not those of us in the Technology Transfer community.  We know that while IP commercialisation is very important, it is in fact a relatively small activity in terms of overall university revenue from industry.   Taking the data from the NSRC and considering our commercialisation income to be the last category and research contracts and consultancies to represent all of the others combined, the Australian data would suggest:

Knowledge exchange mechanism % Revenue
All other Engagement mechanisms 95.5
Intellectual property (including sale of shares) 4.5

 
It’s the same order of magnitude and, if we really wanted to, we could argue that we are twice as good as the UK at commercialising IP – but we aren’t going to do that.

What we will say though is that we need a broader view of university/industry engagement beyond a single OECD chart and beyond IP commercialisation income.  Let’s recognise that university/industry engagement happens in many ways, most of them bigger and more effective than commercialisation.  Let’s recognise them and reward them as these are the ways that our research actually gets translated into the economy to deliver benefits to the tax-payer who funded it.

Dr Kevin Cullen
KCA Vice-Chair, Metrics
CEO, UNSW Innovations

*These tables have been sourced from the data summary report produced by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science available here.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics, and how I can’t escape my job even on holiday

I was lucky enough to recently find myself diving on the Great Barrier Reef, up around Lizard Island for my holidays. This was around the time that the press started talking about coral bleaching with quotes such as “An aerial survey of the northern Great Barrier Reef has shown that 95 per cent of the reefs are now severely bleached — far worse than previously thought.” I was expecting to see a wasteland under the water, but while there were a small number of certain coral species that did exhibit severe bleaching, the reef was still spectacular, with the vast majority of coral looking healthy. Indeed recent surveys have shown that the southern reef is now in its best shape for years, following recovery after a series of cyclones. What should have been reported was something like “Up to 95% of the northern reefs had evidence of some coral being bleached”. On each reef that is a small percentage of the total coral, but that doesn’t make a good headline.

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There are now rebuttals with this week a detailed underwater survey reporting “Recent underwater surveys, looking at 32 reefs between Cairns and Lizard Island, found less than five per cent were suffering severe bleaching or coral mortality”. However, the damage has been done and the global headlines were about the death of the Great Barrier Reef, although misuse of data. What has this got to do with technology transfer or commercialisation, you may ask?  Well, I believe that we suffer from the same type of statistical misuse. The commonly held view is that Australia is poor at commercialisation of our research and the OECD stat that we are 29th out of 29, or 33rd out of 33 for industry who collaborate with universities is used to back this up. The fact that the OECD stat is referring to Australian business research activity, not university commercialisation activity is ignored, as well as ignoring all the research activities that we undertake with overseas businesses. If it backs up the common view we will keep quoting it. I, and many others, have tried to point this out, but with limited success.

So, what can we do about it? Quoting stats has had, and will have no effect. What we need to do is back up our case with more examples of the great work we are doing, and the genuine impact we are having on society, only a small portion of which is can be counted in dollar returns to our organisations. The greatest benefits are to the businesses, investors and society who take what we have developed and apply it, often globally.

Which brings me onto the second part of my story. Also on the boat was Dr Angel Yanagihara from the University of Hawaii who studies box jellyfish, their stings and how to treat them. She has developed barrier creams and treatments (both first aid and hospital based) to deal with what can be a deadly encounter. She is now in the process of commercialising this, initially through a licensing partner, who failed to deliver, and now through her own company Alatalab Solutions. This will save lives, mostly in less developed countries. What a great story to demonstrate why we do our job. It is not going to make loads of money, but it will save lives.

What we need to be doing to telling more of our own stories in Australia of the great things that we have done and are doing. Some may make a lot of money, like WiFi, Gardisil or IVF, whereas others will have positive impacts on society through different mechanisms, such as the Triple P Parenting Program, Low FODMAP diet and many other similar things. So let’s celebrate more of our success by sharing them through KCA, with your colleagues and collaborators and through any other mechanisms you care to think of.  This is how we will change the perception of what we do, not through “Lies, damn lies and statistics.”

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Alastair Hick
Chair, Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia

BOOM! Working together #greatidea featuring heavily in new Federal Government Innovation & Science Agenda #ideasboom

 

Alastair Hick, Chair – Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia

The Australian Federal Government launched its much hyped “National Science & Innovation Agenda” today, and KCA are pleased to see the Government will invest across the broader innovation system, and provide more incentives to encourage greater collaboration between business and research.

This agenda seeks to enable Australia to better capitalise on the great research and innovation being undertaken in our own backyard, and create more jobs and stimulate economic growth.  The launch of the new agenda signals the start of a new journey for us all, and while it does not provide all the answers, the many significant changes are a definite step in the right direction. Most importantly for us though, is that this new agenda is not just about the money.  Although we are talking about $1.1B over the forward estimates, and much more over the life of some of the programs announced, the changes on how some funds are distributed are just as important as the announcements of new money. Also of importance is the range of programs that have been put forward. The challenges we face in translating research are system wide and as such we require a range of initiatives that address issues across all different parts of the system to result in real change.

A few highlights for me show that this agenda is on the right track:

Long Term Support

There is long term support for our research infrastructure to ensure that our research can remain globally competitive and produce globally competitive innovations. It is no surprise that many of the world’s globally renowned academic institutions are also famous for their ability to produce breakthrough innovations leading to commercial exploitation.

Investment Boosts

There is the establishment of two new investment funds, one from CSIRO with a broad remit and one using funds from the Medical Research Future Fund for Biomedical Translation will significantly add to the pool of early stage investment capital in Australia. I am equally excited about the proposals for an EIS type scheme that will allow investors to get tax write offs for qualifying investments. We need access to a range of investors for different types of opportunities, from IT based student start-ups to biotech spin-outs. One is not better than the other, but they do have different investment characteristics and require investors with different approaches, capital and return requirements.

Universities

Changes to the way universities are measured and financially rewarded for engaging with industry and other end-users will encourage greater levels of engagement and stronger internal support for researchers who are interested in engagement activities. We will be measured on our performance and will have the opportunity to highlight the value we can and do already add. Funds will be allocated on the basis of engagement and so engagement will become more important.

The proposed changes to the Linkage scheme means that it will now be responsive to industry timeframes for the first time by having rolling applications instead of once or twice a year. This will make it much more relevant for industry partners and should lead to higher quality applications as well as greater engagement.

There is plenty more in there as well, and I am sure not everything will work perfectly, but what has made me feel optimistic is that innovation is firmly on the agenda and that government has grasped that this is a system wide issue where everyone needs to work together for success. Equally we don’t have all the final solutions today; the R&D Tax Incentive is still to be examined by the newly formed independent body Innovation and Science Australia, there are concerns about the new Equity Crowd Funding legislation, but as Wyatt Roy put it today:

Of course, we can always improve this and add to this, but this is the first step. If we can improve these policies then we will, if we can add to them then we will and if something doesn’t work we’ll stop it.

I have seen a lot of ground up activity in the startup and innovation worlds in Australia over the past two years, now we have the clear support from government to grow. We are in the spotlight, so let’s make the most of this opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

KCA Annual Conference 2015 wrap-up

Raising the Bar was the theme of this year’s KCA Annual Conference, with discussion focussed around the big picture of technology transfer and where things are headed in Australia.  We wanted a program which inspired our audience to go away thinking about what it is that we are doing and why, and how we can look to improve and adapt so that we continue to add value well into the future.

The internal perspective:

We kicked off the conference by trying to get a better understanding of what our internal stakeholders think of us, and gain insight as to the perceived role of the commercial office within the research organisation.  Unsurprisingly, they saw the TT office as being instrumental in aiding them to navigate the murky waters of IP policies, avoid common pitfalls and steer negotiations to ensure a win/win situation for all parties is achieved.  With Universities eager to collaborate and work more with industry, the office’s role in facilitating such partnerships is more crucial than ever.

Looking at it from the University side, while there is a growing focus on engaging with industry, there isn’t the resource to return the results that many would like to see.  Research organisations recognise the need to invest in developing long term relationships with industry, and the need to bridge the gap between the conflicting needs and outputs of both sides, but this will take time to create the balanced ecosystem that is required and will require both sides coming together and working at it to make it a reality.

IMG_2982_1The external perspective:

Relationships, relationships, relationships.  This was the core theme of the industry engagement session.

Long-term relationships are fundamental to successful industry engagement, and more can be done on all sides to better nurture these relationships to make them more prosperous.  Business 101 perhaps, but still a needed reminder as sometimes this essential element is not as well tended to as it could be.  Open and honest communication is vital, as is water tight project management from all sides.

Business is keen to work with research organisations, and it was acknowledged that research is useful when trying to figure out how to approach an idea, or for developing solutions to problems over the longer term.  However, business still struggles to identify what is happening inside research organisations, and they are critical of the current state of marketing such information (a shortfall which research organisations acknowledged in the first session as something that needs to be worked on).

They want to engage with elite problem solvers within research organisations in short sprints to test the waters, and once they begin to become immersed in the business and understand its needs, then begin to work on bigger, more integrated projects.  Particularly for larger organisations, it is a slow, organic process, built fundamentally on the quality and success of relationships.

Projects gone by:

Next we took a step back and examined projects gone by to take heed of the learnings to be had from other’s fortunes and misfortunes. Discussing diverse topics from big deals to big litigation, again the theme of relationships shone through.

UWA v Gray is an iconic and cornerstone case for modern day tech transfer in Australia, but this time the audience was privy to rarely heard insight around proceedings at the time, with the primary take home message ultimately cautioning us to maintain relationships to avoid litigation if at all possible.

Getting to know your end user and understanding their needs to develop a bespoke solution was at the core of the next tale.  Amaero was the Monash response to their industry partners’ need, a manufacturing company specialising in high quality 3D printing of products, ranging from hip implants to Boeing jet engines.  The rise of Amaero was an interesting mix of no protectable IP in a highly competitive market, and attracting the right investors to grow internationally.

Taking a strategic approach and getting the right people involved is how Fibrotech achieved one of Australia’s biggest biotechnology deals to date.  Great science and access to the right investment fund, coupled with smart business strategy shows that local drug development can have a huge impact internationally.

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The route to professionalisation:

Technology transfer as a practice is relatively new.  Unlike doctors, lawyers and accountants, we don’t have hundreds of years of history guiding and informing current practice.  Therefore to “raise the bar” around what we do as a collective, and work towards becoming a recognised “profession,” we need to define where this “bar” sits in the first place.

A small yet very important piece of the puzzle to designing our future as a profession is to understand who and where we are now.  We need to have a firm grip on the scope of our roles, what our stakeholders perceive this to be, and how we rank ourselves in our ability to perform. To shed some light on this, KCA is working with our partner’s gemaker to investigate the intricacies of the tech transfer role, and map out the key elements required to effectively put research to use.  To date, we have gathered enough information from the KCA member base to mock up a draft competencies matrix (essentially a big cheat sheet detailing all the key human intelligence ingredients a tech transfer office needs to help its research organisation facilitate the transfer of IP) and are now comparing this self-informed chart against the findings from stakeholder interviews (which are revealing what they need from a tech transfer professional) to generate a comprehensive list of office competency requirements.

At the end of the project we will have developed a useful tool which can be used by both decision makers and individuals to better inform resourcing needs of offices, training requirements of individuals, and better inform career planning.

Being inspired to be novel in our approach:

Our novel ways to transfer knowledge was all about challenging our thinking about the way in which we approach tech transfer, and how we might look to adapt in order to service an ever changing external environment.

Markets are changing and we are living in a consumer centric world where business is focussing on solving the needs of the individual and developing bespoke solutions to service their needs. So how are we as a group working with business to help facilitate this process?  How are we distributing knowledge so that it consumable and relevant to the end user?  Monash decided to ditch the traditional information booklet and insert this content into an app; they now have a number one medical app in 50 countries and it is one of the top 40 paid for apps in the world.  This is great, but what else can we be doing to change our thinking and our approach?

SANOFI for example are shifting from pharma centric conglomerate to being more consumer focused.  As opposed to looking to treat the generic health problem, they are trying to treat the issues and concerns person instead.  While it may not be considered a radical shift, it has completely changed how they think about developing new products and services.  With new thinking brings new challenges, but be prepared to back your ideas and find a champion to help you push the idea through.  Don’t be afraid to fail, but trust your gut also if it is telling you to back away from an idea.

Getting traction with media to raise awareness of your project or its outcomes:

Whether you are trying to raise the profile of an individual project, your office or the sector as a whole, the fundamentals of communicating relevance and benefits remain the same.  Having heard repeatedly on day one that research organisations need to get better at “bragging about their achievements” and the importance of constant open and honest communication, closing off the conference with a frank discussion about the dos and don’ts of effectively presenting and disseminating information was a great way to round out the program.

This was the session that set most tongues wagging and left no doubt in anybody’s mind that as a sector, we NEED to get better at marketing and generating content for distribution.  Without it, we don’t have a voice and people are just left listening to the only other voices that are out there filling the vacuum.

Communication needs to be considered right from the beginning of a project, both as a risk management tool, as well as a means for promotion.  After a cranking ‘notice me’ entrance to iconic rock tune Know your Product (The Saints 1996), Biotech Daily editor, David Langsam, emphasised the importance of direct, transparent and to-the-point media announcements to capture journalists’ attention and help them want to promote our deals and discoveries.

Your six best friends are Who? What? Why? Where? When? and How?  How many words depends on the publication.  Make sure you tell your story clearly, and DO NOT use jargon.

Former BRW journalist and now ‘blog doctor’ Kath Walters explained why developing personal relationships with journalists matters, and spoke of exclusivity as the currency journalists prefer.  Personal stories that relate to the bigger picture are always more greatly favoured, but statistically proven research also has its place.

The Social Science’s creative director, Michelle Gallagher (ex-CEO of the BioMelbourne Network), shared some kick-butt facts and figures about the following that science and scientists now have in cyberspace, leaving us with no doubt about the awesome reach of social media compared to traditional methods of promoting new knowledge, as well as how it can bring enormous value.   You have access to people and information like never before on social media, and therefore can have conversations that you never had previously.  People consume more online social media that traditional media, so if you want to be heard, you need to have a voice in this medium.  Scientists with large followings on social media are increasingly valuable to their organisations, and are using these platforms to attract research dollars and other resources for projects.

In conclusion:

The take homes from this conference really were that relationships are fundamental to the success of everything that we do in tech transfer, and that as a whole, we need to lift our game when it comes to marketing.  Business 101 for sure.  But something we need to consciously work towards improving.

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The Technology Transfer Community of Australia says thanks to its sterling contributor

The recent KCA AGM has seen a change in Chair and the election of a number of new KCA members to office.

In welcoming these new members, KCA says goodbye and thank you to some of our earlier members, including our immediate past Chair, Mr Robert Chalmers, Managing Director of Adelaide Research & Innovation.

On stepping down Rob said, ” It has been a privilege to be Chair of KCA and my engagement with the association has benefited me in many ways: engaging me with colleagues locally and internationally and with the important policy settings that impact our work. I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement in KCA and the friendships that I have made.  It has been a great experience working with the sector and advocating on behalf of the needs of the collective. So much remains to be done, but we are well positioned for further growth and I am sure that the association will thrive under new leadership.

Rob was elected as Chair of the association in 2012, and part of the Executive for over 8 years. During his time as Chair, Rob has helped to propel the association forwards, and has overseen a number of initiatives creating a more sustainable entity.

Rob was instrumental in introducing the association’s first ever paid employee, a dedicated resource to help drive change and to champion a future direction.  In 2013, Melissa Geue was employed as a full time Executive Officer to work with Rob to help ramp up activity and move the association forwards.  Since then, the association has increased its activity and participation in industry wide events, and has been able to offer more training and networking events to members.

An active advocate, Rob contributed many submissions to Federal Government papers on policy affecting the translation of research. These included contributions on metrics, boosting commercial returns from research, reform of entrepreneurial support programs, assessment of the wider benefits arising from research, R&D tax incentive reform, venture capital and entrepreneurial skills, and the role of IP in collaborations between the public and private sectors.  Rob has helped to raise the profile of KCA and the member base internationally, speaking on its behalf at AUTM events in Beijing, Singapore, Kyoto, Texas and Taipei. He has also worked with the Federal government on projects such as the reform of the National Survey of Research Commercialisation, the development of the IP toolkit, participated in many roundtable discussions at a State and Federal level on the reform of programs directed at translational research support, and represented KCA in groups such as the IP Stakeholders Forum.

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KCA Executive and members thank Rob for the great deal of work and commitment to help progress the association to where it is today, always considering the goal to grow the offering of KCA, and return value to all members.

Newly elected Chair of KCA, Dr Alastair Hick said, “Rob has been a valuable member of the KCA Executive and has instigated a number of changes since being Chair which have made a real and lasting difference to that way in which KCA operates.  We have appreciated all of his contributions to the sector during the past eight years and thank him for all that his done. He leaves KCA well positioned for the next phase in its growth.

The recent AGM saw another of the KCA Executive team step down as well.  After three years with the Executive, David Henderson, previous head of the UniQuest has also stepped down.  KCA would like to thank David for all of his contributions to discussion around the future of the association, and input into bringing the association to where it is today.