Strategic thinking, business and commercial acumen plus the ability to communicate and influence are some of the identified skills required by Technology Transfer Professionals (TTPs) to effectively take research to market says the World’s first TTP Capability Framework published today.
Entitled Knowledge Transfer in Australia: Is there a route to professionalism? the new Framework is the result of intensive research where 103 TTPs, 31 stakeholders and 64 Australasian organisations were interviewed and surveyed.
To date TTPs have lacked clear and identifiable career paths. While commercialising publicly funded research is relatively new, the drive from external stakeholders such as Government and business to “do better” has escalated the need to better define the practice, and outline what is required to effectively put research to use in both an ethical and competent manner.
Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA) therefore commissioned the development of a world-first career Capability Framework that defines the skills, knowledge, behaviours and values required by a team taking research to market, and outline career paths for those working in the role at different levels.
The KCA framework describes up to 200 desired capabilities for TTPs, divided into seven clusters and sixteen sub-clusters, and classified by development stages: early-career, mid-career and senior level.
Study participants perceived the skills of Australasian TTPs to be strong in the area of intellectual property advice and knowledge transfer, plus the qualifications and experience of those in the industry is well respected. The skills requiring the most development are in the areas of business acumen, communications and influence, legal compliance and advice, marketing and relationships, social media, and strategy and results.
KCA Chair and Director of Monash Innovation at Monash University, Dr Alastair Hick said with increased demand and interest in improving the transfer of research to market, the KCA Framework comes at the right time. It will fit well with the range of initiatives in the National Science and Innovation Agenda as we move to ensure Australian research has the best chance to have impact for the Australian economy and society more broadly.
“To date there has been a lot of discussion about Australia’s record of translating research success into commercial uptake and jobs creation, with much of it focussing on the researcher. However, technology transfer professionals play a vital role in commercialising research out of research organisations so ensuring they have the right skills and development are crucial to this commercial success. The framework is helping us to benchmark our performance and skills and see where KCA can provide additional training opportunities for our members” said Dr Alastair Hick, KCA Chair and Director of Monash Innovation, at Monash University.
In March 2015, the Professional Standards Council awarded a $98,000 grant to KCA to develop the framework for the professional competency standards of the technology transfer sector.
“No one else in the world has achieved anything like the KCA framework, which focuses on the skills technology transfer professionals need, rather than just job titles or roles. Our international counterparts have said they are keen to receive the framework as they will find it valuable for their professional development pathways,” said Dr Hick.
‘The Capability Framework we have developed provides benchmarks for technology transfer professionals (TTPs), against which the performance of individuals and teams can be measured.
“A digest of the Framework will be provided to KCA Members as a toolkit to improve recruitment practices, select targeted professional development, communicate their capabilities to stakeholders, and enable informed self-assessment and career planning.
“Researchers and industry stakeholders can also use the Framework to improve their understanding of the role of TTPs, thereby promoting more transparent, accountable and productive partnerships,” said Dr Hick.
Recommendations for KCA and similar organisations include the development of a Code of Ethics for the TTP sector; focused education programs to address the identified skills gaps; secondment and mentoring programs involving Technology Transfer Offices and industry stakeholders and a formal processes for stakeholder feedback on the performance of TTPs.
“We are delighted to see this report, as it tackles the issue of advancing knowledge exchange and commercialisation by providing insights to build Australian industry,” said Dr Deen Sanders, Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Standards Council.
“It also shows that this sector is taking a serious and strategic approach to raising standards and becoming a profession.”
KCA is having discussions with the Alliance of Technology Transfer Professionals (ATTP), the global alliance of professional technology transfer associations, to see how it might be applied internationally in order to recognise excellence.
The project team comprised of technology commercialisation consultancy gemaker (associate members of KCA), Dr Hick and KCA Executive Officer, Melissa Geue with gemaker Co-founder Athena Prib leading the team.
About Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA)
KCA is the peak body leading best practice in industry engagement, commercialisation and entrepreneurship for research organisations. We achieve this through expert delivery of stakeholder connections, professional development and advocacy.
gemaker works with Australia’s smartest people connecting them to expertise, customers and funders as needed across the full innovation process of taking new ideas to market. A team of technical and commercial specialists commercialising new technologies, products and services for research organisations, SMEs and start-ups in the advanced manufacturing, education, environmental, ICT, medical, mining, new materials and nuclear sectors. gemaker is an associate member of KCA.
About Professional Standards Councils (PSCs)
PSCs work to improve professional standards and protect consumers of professional services across Australia. Professional Standards Councils are independent statutory bodies established in each state and territory. They have specific responsibilities under professional standards legislation for assessing and approving applications for, and supervising the application of, Professional Standards Schemes. PSCs and their agents work together in a partnership approach to regulation that both enhances Australia’s consumer protection regime and promotes the vital role professions play in our economy.
Media Contact: Sharon Kelly (gemaker), E: email@example.com M: +61 414 780 077
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
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.
Getting 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.
The 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.
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:
Income from commercialisation
Table 5.1.3: Income yielded from active LOAs (AU$ Million)*
Table 5.1.3. shows that the university sector, as a whole, generated AU$61million of income from licences in 2014.
Income from other engagement mechanisms
Table 5.5: Value of contracts, consultancies and collaborations (AU$ Million)*
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|
|CPD and continuing education||20|
|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.
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.
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.”
Chair, Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 2014 KCA Annual Conference, themed “Commercialisation: There are no Rules,” was held 18-19 September in Brisbane.
Day one kicked off with a lively, theatre style comical debate about the whole concept of institutional technology transfer and whether or not it actually works. It was an entertaining mudslinging affair, as both sides battled it out, arguing their points with passion to try win over the adjudicator audience. Valid arguments were presented on both sides, and while there was stronger support for the opposing team, the audience supported the notion that while in its current form the system is broken, the notion of technology transfer is still very important and a worthwhile endeavour. You can read more about the debate on the gemaker blog.
Day one continued on with updates from DECO on the defence trade control act, IP Analytics from IP Australia and some creative strategies around how to commercialise IP within the humanities and social sciences. Deakin talked us through how crowdfunding and using platforms such as Pozible do offer opportunities for society benefiting social projects, however these sites require strong commitment from the project team and the leveraging of the teams social and professional networks to really make the most of the opportunity and to gain the most out of the exercise. Creative commercialisation in education was also shown to offer benefits as presented by Griffith.
The afternoon session saw the finalists of the inaugural KCA Research Commercialisation Awards join the stage to talk about some of the lessons learnt though their projects. Of course the most exciting part of day one was the awards dinner, tech transfers night of nights, where our winners of our three awards categories were announced in front of their peers and sector supporters. Just to recap in case you missed the hype (or the official press release), Best Commercial Deal went to Uniquest for their Janssen Dendright deal, Best Creative Engagement Strategy went to Griffith Enterprise for SEED, and the People’s Choice went to Swinburne for their 3D IMAX project. Congrats once again to all our winners, and a big thanks to all our award sponsors Wrays, gemaker, Crowe Horwath, Business Spectator and Joanne Jacobs.
Day two launched with a cracker marketing session. How to use social media in the tech transfer office and other pearls of wisdom came down the line from guru Laura Schoppe calling in from North Carolina in the US. Changes in the social media scene in Australia were presented by prize donor Joanne Jacobs, while an inspiring tale of perseverance, creative financing and the power to influence via social media was shared with the group by Justine Flynn from the Thankyou Group.
Start-ups and student entrepreneurship featured in the mid-morning session. Andrew Stead shared NICTA’s model of the land of spin-ins, an IP strategy that sits somewhere between licensing and spin-outs. Uber passionate Petra Andren spoke on ATP Innovations student accelerator programs and the potential for universities to use them as a vehicle for commercialisation, and Colin Kinner rounded out the session with the importance of start-ups to the Australian economy and tips as to how tech transfer offices can turn themselves into start-up powerhouses.
The humorous Michael Klug took on the graveyard shift and converted it into a show-stopping finale for attendees. We only gave him an hour, but he manages to impart substantive information in that short window, drawing on a good forty years of experience in the black art of negotiation.
All in all, a pretty good two days – hopefully you each have a few new “tools” to store away into your industry toolkit. Thanks for all of your feedback – it’s a really great starting point for next year’s program! Don’t forget to let me know if you’d like to join the 2015 organising committee! The 2015 conference will be in Melbourne in mid-September. Dates to be confirmed shortly.
The technology transfer profession of Australia is in mourning after the passing of veteran Dr David Alexander Evans (b. 22/1/1941) on 19/9/2014.
David made a largely unrecognised, but exceptional, personal contribution to the culture of innovation and support for early stage commercialisation of technologies in Australia, devoting his career and life to providing leadership, vision, inspiration and mentoring support to a generation of innovation professionals.
Working with Australian innovators and commercialisation professionals David supported, facilitated or encouraged, technologies that have delivered hundreds of millions of dollars to the Australian economy and generated significant social and environmental benefits.
David was instrumental in transforming Uniquest in the mid-90s into the leading powerhouse that we all now know of it to be. David was also the visionary who noted the need for seed stage funding and in true leadership style went on to pioneer UniSeed, Australia’s first university based Venture Capital Fund (Uniseed) with an initial capitalisation of $20 million.
During a career that spanned more than 40 years, David demonstrated time and time again a remarkable vision for what Australian innovators could achieve. More impressively, his ability to communicate this vision with a passion that inspired others, backed up with skills to facilitate engagement and discussion, saw these visions convert into reality and have a significant positive benefit on the Australian technology transfer scene.
David’s passion for innovation was sparked early. In 1962, as a recently graduated engineer (BE Engineering, University of NSW), he joined M R Hornibrook (NSW) Pty Ltd working on Stage 2 of the Sydney Opera House Project. There he was inspired by the creativity of Joe Bertony, who had been able to design the engineering support structures needed to build the visionary sails of the Sydney Opera house. They remained lifelong friends and collaborators on innovation. David’s contributions as part of this team were recognised in “Building a Masterpiece: the Sydney Opera House” (Anne Watson ed, 2006).
A young David went on to study his Masters (MS Engineering-Economic Planning and MA Economics) and Doctorate (PhD, Engineering) degrees at Stanford University (California, USA) after receiving a Fulbright Travel Grant and a Ford International Scholarship in 1964. In 1965 he met Professor Doug Englebart (inventor of, among other things, the computer mouse) at a seminar. Caught up in the excitement of the potential of what he was seeing, David began to visit Stanford Research Institute (SRI) and work with Professor Englebart over the period 1966 to 1969, after which he returned to Australia with his young family.
In 1968, David was part of the team that produced “the mother of all demonstrations”, now seen as heralding the dawn of interactive computing. David is personally thanked by Professor Englebart at the conclusion of the hour long presentation (http://sloan.stanford.edu/MouseSite/1968Demo.html). David’ doctoral thesis talked about the processes for innovation he had experienced at SRI and he was awarded his doctorate after he used the (then revolutionary) word processing technology they had developed, to revise his thesis overnight in response to suggestions from the examination panel. David is credited by Professor Englebart with having developed “the Journal” which has been described as “a predecessor of all contemporary server software that supports collaborative document creation. It was used to discuss, debate, and refine concepts in the same way that “wikis” are being used today”. The concept of collaboration to improve on and foster new ideas remained right at the core of David’s approach to innovation right until the very end.
After returning to Australia, David became a senior consultant at W D Scott & Company and carried out assignments for Australian Wire Industries, South Australian Aboriginal Lands Council and the Philippines Board of Investments. He subsequently founded and established W D Scott’s office in Papua New Guinea and won major assignments, just prior to independence, in economic development, localization and efficiency improvement.
From 1972 – 1974, David was seconded from W D Scott & Company as a member of the Priorities Review Staff, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet – a policy task force / think tank set up by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. He acted as one of five Senior Advisers in the PRS (set up along the lines of Lord Rothschild’s Central Policy Review Staff in the UK) to provide an alternative view on long-term policy to the Australian Government. It was a role that fitted with his extraordinary capacity to envision a better Australia.
He went on to work as a management consultant (largely for governments) in Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Before moving into technology commercialisation in universities in the late 1980s, he had established a consultancy company of his own (the Implementation and Management Group (IMG)), working throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and developed this into a boutique, seed-stage management and investment company starting up, facilitating and nurturing new companies based on innovative Australian technology in IT&T, physical sciences, engineering and biotechnology. Companies in the IMG group included VLD Consultants, IMG Consultants, LSE Manufacturing and LSE Technology.
Entering the world of technology commercialisation
In the late 1980s he began his direct contribution to technology commercialisation in running his own “hatchery”. He took up positions as CEO of University Partnerships Pty Ltd at the University of New England (Armidale) from 1989 to 1994 then CEO and Managing Director of UniQuest, the technology commercialisation company at the University of Queensland from 1994 to 2000.
David transformed UniQuest from an unremarkable university commercialisation outfit into a robust company, nationally recognised as ‘best practice’ and as a leader internationally. He introduced and implemented a fundamental shift in the way commercialisation of technology from public sector R&D was handled, from a focus on stockpiling non-exploited patents to licensing to third parties and establishing start up and spinoff companies. (http://www.uniquest.com.au/index.php?sectionID=14)
The University of Queensland (UQ), largely through the work of UniQuest, is now ranked in the top deciles for research commercialisation outcomes in the world on a number of metrics. The foundations for this success were laid by David. David was the courageous and persistent person who coaxed/encouraged and forcibly convinced UQ to invest in commercialisation. His leadership and vision laid the foundations for continued success, notwithstanding the fine work of those who have succeeded him. Without his input (and the support of two consecutive Vice Chancellors) UQ would not have achieved the national and international outcomes that make them so proud today.
In terms of specific examples, David negotiated with UQ to provide significant ‘patient’ funding (that is, funding invested to make a return over a long period, rather than immediately) in his early days as Managing Director. David was “inspirational in getting the university (of Queensland) to capitalise its commercialisation arm to the tune of $5 million…No other university had ever done that – it was almost heresy.”
David conceived, garnered high level support for, and then successfully implemented the faculty/head office ‘hub and spoke’ model which is still the basic model for UniQuest today. Under this model, for the first time in Australia, commercialisation professionals were physically co-located with university researchers supporting them in identifying and then commercialising university IP. This significantly reduced IP ‘leakage’, made a generation of researchers commercially aware, and helped increase economic, social and environmental returns from publicly funded R&D. The approach is now an internationally recognized and successful technology transfer model.
During his tenure at UniQuest, David played a leading role in more than 50 commercialisation deals, including Prof Ian Frazer’s (2006 Australian of the year) Human Papilloma Virus (Cervical Cancer) Vaccine deal with CSL/Merck. They also included a deal with GE Medical Systems and Siemens to commercialise Prof David Doddrell’s eddy-current correction method for MRI. These deals are both regarded as benchmarks that set the standard for Australian commercialisation. Moreover, successful commercialisation of these technologies resulted in very significant economic returns to Australia, greatly increased the international profile of the strength of Australian science, and inspired a new generation of scientists and engineers. Professors Frazer and Doddrell have, rightly since, both been recipients of many awards for their contributions to science, the economy and society, including the ATSE Clunies Ross Medal.
David also worked extremely hard to make sure that UQ received a fair return from its investments in technology development. For example, with the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, he was instrumental in ensuring the original deal with CSL benefited the university (as well as the inventor and investors).
David also introduced his ideas and successes to other universities, and the model he implemented has subsequently been adopted in other public sector institutions, increasing ability to gain returns from public sector R&D.
In developing his model for technology transfer, David identified the lack of seed stage funding as a significant hindrance to innovation. Showing characteristic leadership, vision and persuasion, in 2000, he established and became CEO of Australia’s first university based Venture Capital Fund (Uniseed) with an initial capitalization of $20 million. $10 million from the University of Melbourne and $10 million from UQ. David’s legacy has subsequently seen Uniseed’s capitalisation exceed $60 million with the University of New South Wales and Westscheme (Western Australia’s largest non-government superannuation fund) joining as members of Uniseed.
Uniseed was set up to invest at the pre-seed stage in UQ and University of Melbourne start-up companies, giving them a better chance of reaching the seed capital investment stage. At the time this approach to commercialisation of university technology through support of the institutions themselves was revolutionary.
While David was CEO, Uniseed’s investments supported 15 new technology companies, including 12 in the life sciences. Among these, David identified, encouraged and/or supported the development of many of the now successful UQ start-ups: Magnetica, Xenome, TripleP, and Fultech. These companies alone have contributed many millions of dollars to the wider economy and The University of Queensland, supporting hundreds of research positions and providing resources to fund other university activities. The flow on economic, social and environmental benefits of their success and the resulting increased profile of Australian science are hugely significant.
In making these commercialisation successes, he also showcased the now well known researchers working on the technologies. Not only Professors David Doderell, and Ian Frazer (mentioned earlier) but also Stuart Crozier, Roger Drinkwater and Matt Sanderson.
David was also instrumental in securing key early stage investors for many start-up companies. He has the understanding of the venture capital environment and the passion to understand and explain technologies that allow investors to feel comfortable about the prospects that lie ahead. Redflow Limited (now trading on the Australian Stock Exchange – ASX RFX) is one such company.
In the period 2002 – 2005, David also made several significant contributions to other research based organizations looking to his leadership and vision for commercialisation. He provided consulting advice to the Australian Institute for Commercialisation and to the four universities that are Members of the National Stem Cell Centre Ltd (UNSW, Adelaide, Monash and Queensland). He acted as a Director of IMBcom, the commercialisation company for the Institute of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Queensland; Anutech, the commercialisation company at the Australian National University; CAST Centre Pty Ltd, the management company for the CRC for Cast Metals Manufacturing; and two companies commercialising a new internal combustion engine technology, Ron Richards Engine Technologies and Toroidal Technology.
At the end of 2004, David was appointed Managing Director and CEO of Magnetic Limited. At Magnetica, David worked closely with the founding scientists, investors and the Board to commercialise magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology developed at UQ. His leadership and vision resulted in international partnerships (including Jastec, a subsidiary of Kobe Steel) and a collaboration that won a tender to develop a new ‘disruptive’ technology, a very high performance MRI magnet, now being sold to and incorporated in a new MRI system distributed globally by GE Healthcare.
Up until June 2010, he continued to seek out universities in Australia and overseas that might benefit from his ideas, and has inspired them to start thinking further about how best to create the structures that will support and nurture innovation, and enable the creators of new ideas as well as broader communities to share in the value they create. In 2008-2010 he worked in collaboration with the University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney and the University of New England in relation to what he calls “intentional innovation communities”. He also worked in collaboration with Penn State University to explore ways of piloting similar ideas in rural communities in Pennsylvania.
Many individuals, both commercialisation professionals and researchers/inventors, credit David with either seeding or supporting their careers. A generous mentor, David passion for innovation and the ability to implement a grand vision is contagious. He saw solutions where others see only obstacles; potential where others saw mediocrity and has an uncanny knack for spotting the ‘spark’ that becomes a great person, company or idea. Another constant throughout his career was his proud support and promotion of Australia and its ideas and impact.
Employees and colleagues from David’ time at UniQuest and Uniseed have gone on to set up and staff innovation sector enterprises around Australia. Anne-Marie Birkill is General Partner and Executive Director of One Ventures Innovation Fund, a $40 million innovation fund that is part of the Australian Government’s Innovation Investment Fund program. She is also one of the few female directors of an ASX listed technology company (RedFlow Limited). Michael Finney is the founding Chief Executive Officer of QUTbluebox, the commercialisation arm of the Queensland University of Technology. Andrew Davis is General Manager of UniQuest’s technology commercialisation team. He is also a Director of Magnetica (a company based on the magnetic resonance imaging capabilities developed at UQ); Coridon (a company commercialising new vaccine technologies developed by Ian Frazer and his team); and a number of other Australian technology start-ups. Nicky Milsom is Managing Director of Magnetica Limited.
Like many great men, David actively avoided seeking personal recognition or reward for his work; but his contributions should be noted and recognised. Thank you David. You gave so much. The Australian technology transfer profession is very grateful. May you rest in peace.
*Thank you to Michael Finney for providing KCA with the above prose which was the basis for a nomination put forward for an Australia Day Honour in David’s name in 2013. This was ultimately successful with David being recognised in the Australia Day Honours list for 2013 for his long service to innovation and science in Australia. David was made a “Member of the Order of Australia” with the full citation being: Dr David Alexander Evans, for significant service to science and innovation through commercialising and developing new technologies. On the right is a photo of David accepting his honour in Canberra.
For the first time recognition has been given to research commercialisation teams via the inaugural Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA) Research Commercialisation Awards, with winners – two from Queensland and the People’s Choice from Victoria – announced tonight at the annual conference dinner in Brisbane.
“Australia punches above its weight in research with journal publications and patent applications. Translating that research success into commercial uptake by industry and creation of Australian jobs, is an intricate, challenging and resource intensive process and so it’s important that we take the time to recognise and acknowledge the efforts of those involved in this process,” KCA Executive Officer Melissa Geue said.
“These awards recognise research organisations’ success in creatively transferring knowledge and research outcomes into the broader community, and raise the profile of research organisations contribution to the development of new products and services which benefit wider society and sometimes even enable companies to grow new industries in Australia.”
The 2014 Award winners are:
Best Commercial Deal for any form of commercialisation of knowledge which is innovative in its approach, provides value-add to the research institution and has significant long term social and economic impact.
UniQuest – Janssen deal with Dendright technology targeting rheumatoid arthritis
Researchers at The University of Queensland have developed a new drug, Curcusome-RA, to treat rheumatoid arthritis which has the potential to be a long-lasting treatment for the autoimmune disease. UniQuest were successful in closing a funding deal with Pharmaceutical company Janssen to support ongoing R&D towards Phase 1 clinical trials and Janssen have an option to commercialise Curcusome-RA worldwide.
Best Creative Engagement Strategy to showcase some of the creative strategies research organisations are using to engage with industry partner/s to share and create new knowledge.
Griffith Enterprise (Griffith University) – SEED
SEED combines Griffith’s popular music, creative arts, film and marketing students to develop and promote an album each year. Students learn how to interact with online music providers and make valuable industry connections. Through major partners such as Queensland Performing Arts Centre, they perform a concert series The Seed Project, building a following and enhancing their, and in turn Griffith’s, reputations.
Griffith Enterprise’s Business and Innovation Manager (Education, Creative Arts & Design, and Humanities) Anthony Pages, who worked closely with The Con on growing the SEED enterprise through major strategic partnerships, said: “SEED needed a creative partnership arrangement that went well beyond the traditional sponsorship/production support to help build its key learning offering. The Queensland Conservatorium’s partnership with QPAC adds a much-needed concert series to the mix so that along with the commercial acumen Griffith students build through developing and selling an album, they also hone performance skills to thrive in the world of emerging DIY artists.”
People’s Choice Award is open to the wider public to vote on what commercial deal or create engagement strategy project deserves to win.
The winner this year, leading by nearly 100 votes, is:
Swinburne University of Technology – A 3D IMAX Initiative – The ‘Giants Are Coming’ but they need to turn into the ‘Hidden Universe’.
Risk adverse university joins with creative film company to produce Australia’s first 3D IMAX film which has already been seen by more than 700,000 people in cinemas across the planet. Hidden Universe uses real images captured by the world’s most powerful telescopes to take audiences on a journey to the farthest reaches of our Universe and excite their interest and awareness of science and technology.
Wrays Patent Attorneys were the major sponsor of the 2014 Awards.
Wrays’ CEO Frank Hurley said:, “Through our support, we hope to raise awareness of the importance of understanding often undervalued intellectual property to leverage new ideas, and subsequently nurture relationships with future entrepreneurs by enabling them to protect and also generate wealth from their innovations.”