Tagged: conference

KCA Awards 2018 – Applications Now Open

The KCA Awards celebrate the achievements of members, and highlight “top tier work” in Australasian tech transfer. In 2018 we once again have one open category, and invite members to put forth any activity that has realised success in the last 18 months.

The Awards are open to all KCA members and their respective project partners. Projects can span all facets of research commercialisation, industry engagement and entrepreneurship. The Awards aren’t about “big deals.” The Awards recognise great work, so please be encouraged to put forth projects which demonstrate originality, creative business insight, and/or deliver significant societal impact.

Deadline 19 July 2018. Click here to apply.

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 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.


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.





Commercialisation: There are no Rules!

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.

Investing in the Future – Post Conference Wrap Up 2013

Investing in the Future was the theme of the 2013 KCA Annual Conference, held 13-15 November at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.  Attendees were privy to insights from a diverse array of speakers, covering topics across the spectrum from market conditions to funding to the fundamentals of the way we do business.

The cocktail reception kicked off proceedings on the Wednesday evening, and this year featured a pitching session as part of the program.  Following an excellent overview of funding trends in Australia from Jeremy Colless, eight representatives from across the country got up in front of the audience and eloquently pitched their ideas and technologies, showcasing just a handful of the amazing outcomes arising from some of our member organisations.


Thursday’s program jumped right into it, delving into the future market needs of the Australian economy and things we all need to think about as we move into a knowledge based economy.  This included an overview of CSIRO’s response to emerging technology trends and global challenges, as well as a recent review from the UK as to the success of various interventions to Business-University Collaboration.

This was followed by an interesting discussion on changing trends in funding of technology development in Australia: highlighting outcomes and successes from Commercialisation Australia’s program, the challenges faced by traditional venture capital through to the emergence of accelerators and incubators, their relationship to corporate venture, and considering the extent to which we can successfully copy international initiatives in these areas. The need to think and act global right from day one was also a point that was made that has merit and would provide the innovation sector in Australia with the greatest opportunities.

Thursday afternoon we benefited from talks from some of our industry partners, who addressed both the opportunities and challenges they have faced in trying to collaborate with the university sector.  Representatives from Bluescope, 3M and Thales all spoke to a long history of maximising the benefit from that interaction – good examples of champions within companies who believe there is benefit to be had in collaborating with Universities and publicly funded research organisations. They also spoke to the role that they can play in acting as “technology” brokers to wider opportunities within their organisations and clients, and the challenges of effectively communicating a compelling business case through a long chain of command in larger businesses, to show how specifically a particular project aligns with the organisation’s strategic and commercial objectives.  Alignment of objectives is clearly a critical success factor in collaborative projects, and now we have some good tips as to how to do that better, and some great contacts in industry who are there to help the process.

Day one concluded with an overview of what’s happening across the landscape in other parts of the world, and it was interesting to learn that much of what we’re seeing here in Australia is happening across the Atlantic in the UK and parts of Europe.  The shift away from a narrower focus on licensing and patenting and the move to collaborative partnerships and Easy Access, as well as the integration of the commercial office into to fabric of University departments are just some of the common trends.  Similar trends can be seen in United States (US) and Canada.   Like Australia and the UK, research dollars are declining and offices and there are pressures to do more and be more involved in facilitating collaborative relationships both nationally and internationally.  The sharing of stories – the impact that research outcomes are having in the wider community – was another trend growing in the US, common to what we’re trying to do more of here in the Australian market.

Asia is a growing market for Australia, being so close both geographically and in terms of time.  Accessing this market is not as complicated as one might think – it’s just a matter of knowing how.  Strategic relationships, “piggy-backing,” and being willing to start small to get your foot in the door were just some of the ideas put forward to being successful at entering the Asian market.  Understanding cultural differences and the importance of investing in developing relationships, as well as making full use of your international faculty members were other key take-home points.


Conference delegates were able to let down their hair after a hard day of intent learning, with a boat cruise and three course dinner around Sydney Harbour.  The photo booth and karaoke proved popular forms of social networking!

Friday morning the conference focussed back in on our own people and gave ideas as to how we can better invest in ourselves and our offices to improve what we do.  Social innovation and a shift towards focussing more resource to investigating the creative opportunities which lie within the social sciences faculties were mentioned many times throughout the morning.  The importance of brand and culture to an organisation’s success was also highlighted.  Values and vision were noted as core:  “Visionary, successful companies are guided by core values which include a sense of purpose, beyond making money.  Values do not drive the business – they drive the people within the business.”  Staff were reminded that they are the most important brand advocates: making sure everyone conveys the same consistent message is key.  Handled consistently, culture and brand can reinforce each other and build success.

Friday of the conference went out with a bang, with a highly energetic presentation about how to build trust with stakeholders in just one meeting.  In this industry we often only have one chance to make a killer first impression and 9 times out of 10 we all blow this chance because we are too busy focussing on ourselves and not focussing on what is truly important – the needs of the other person we are trying to engage.   In just one hour, we learnt some of the basics of how to shift our thinking away to help us refrain from some engaging in some of these detrimental behaviours, and began to understand the importance of being able to read others and adapt accordingly if we want them to begin to trust us.

Thank you to our sponsors once again for all your support – Wrays, Gemaker, Commercialisation Australia and Inteum – and to our members for your active participation during discussion time.