Release date: Friday, 2 September 2016
UNSW, Curtin University and UniSA are research commercialisation winners
The University of New South Wales (UNSW), Curtin University (WA) and the University of South Australia (UniSA) were winners at the Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA) Research Commercialisation Awards, announced last night at its annual conference dinner in Brisbane.
Success lay with UNSW which won Best Commercial Deal for securing $20 million capital investment from Zhejian Handian Graphene Tech; Curtin University for the Best Creative Engagement Strategy with The Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Centre; and UniSA won Best Entrepreneurial Initiative and the People’s Choice Award for its Venture Catalyst which supports student led start-ups.
KCA Chair and Director of Monash innovation at Monash University, Dr Alastair Hick, said it was important that commercialising research successes are celebrated and made public.
“KCA member organisations work incredibly hard at developing new ways to get technology and innovation out into industry being developed into the products and services of tomorrow. These awards recognise that hard work and also that we must develop new ways of improving the interface between public sector research and industry. I am also excited that KCA members are playing an increasing role in helping the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. It is essential that we help develop their entrepreneurial skills and give them the opportunities in an environment where they can learn from skilled and experienced mentors,” said KCA Chair, Dr Alastair Hick
Details of the projects are as follows:
Best Commercial Deal
(Dr Hua Fan, UNSW Innovations (left) and Dr Alastair Hick, KCA (right))
Zhejian Hangdian Graphene Tech Co (ZHGT) – University of New South Wales (UNSW)
This is an initiative to fund and conduct research on cutting-edge higher efficiency voltage power cables, known as graphene, and on super-capacitors. With $20M capital investment by the Chinese corporation Hangzhou Cable Co., Ltd (HCCL), and UNSW contributing intellectual property as a 20% partner, the objectives are to execute the deal through research and development; manufacturing of research outcomes in Hangzhou; and finally commercialisation.
Best Creative Engagement Strategy
(Mr Rohan McDougall, Curtin University (left), Dr Alastair Hick, KCA (right))
Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Centre – Curtin University
The Cisco Internet of Everything Innovation Centre, co-founded by Cisco, Curtin University and Woodside Energy Ltd, is a new industry and research collaboration centre designed to foster co-innovation. With a foundation in radioastronomy, supercomputing and software expertise, it is growing a state-of-the-art connected community focused on leveraging data analytics, cybersecurity and digital transformation network platforms to solve industry problems. The Centre combines start-ups, small–medium enterprises, industry experts, developers and researchers in a collaborative open environment to encourage experimentation, innovation and development through brainstorming, workshops, proof-of-concept and rapid prototyping. By accelerating innovation in next-generation technologies, it aims to help Australian businesses thrive in this age of digital disruption.
Best Entrepreneurial Initiative & People’s Choice
(Ms Jasmine Vreugdenburg, UniSA (left) and Dr Alastair Hick, KCA (right))
Venture Catalyst Program – UniSA
Venture Catalyst supports student led start-ups by providing up to $50k to the new enterprise as a grant. The scheme targets current and recent graduates who have a high tolerance for risk and an idea for a new business venture that is both novel and scalable. The scheme takes an ‘IP and equity free’ approach and encourages students to collaborate with different disciplines and externals to encourage a diverse skill set for the benefit of the new venture. Venture Catalyst is a collaboration between the UniSA and the South Australian Government, and is supported through UniSA Ventures as well as representatives from industry and experienced entrepreneurs.
This year’s awards are judged by commercial leaders of innovation: Erol Harvey, CEO, MiniFab, Dan Grant, PVC Industry Engagement, LaTrobe University and Anna Rooke, CEO, QUT Creative Enterprise Australia.
Media Contact: Sharon Kelly (gemaker), E: firstname.lastname@example.org M: +61 414 780 077
Universities today are under more pressure than ever to collaborate with industry.
In the words of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull:
Increasing collaboration between businesses, universities and the research sector is absolutely critical for our businesses to remain competitive.
Australia has a poor report card when it comes to university-business collaboration. It ranks last among the OECD countries when comparing the proportion of businesses working with universities.
But this is not all. Australia ranks only 72nd in the world on the Innovation Efficiency Ratio, a measure comparing innovation inputs to outputs. And we have one of the lowest number of scientific publications co-authored by industry in the OECD.
There is a clear impetus for change. A change towards more academic collaboration with industry.
Why are there such low levels of collaboration?
A popular belief is that researchers are focused on publishing their work in academic journals, and not interested in collaboration with industry.
At a press conference on science and innovation, Turnbull said:
… the primary motivator has been to publish and make sure your publications are cited in lots of other publications, hence the term “publish or perish”.
Publications are, and will continue to be, critical for the advancement of knowledge and for the reputation of academics and universities alike. But does that mean academics aren’t interested in working with business?
Recently the South Australian Science Council undertook a benchmarking survey to test this assumption.
The academic engagement with end users survey was designed to capture the perceptions and attitudes of academics when it comes to engaging with business, government or non-profit organisations.
The survey (which has not been published publicly due to confidentiality reasons) sampled 20% of the total academic employees across three universities in South Australia. The sample size of 852 academics is large enough to tell us something about the Australian, not just South Australian, academic.
The findings found that the most academics (nine out of ten) were motivated to engage with business to help translate their research into practice. And 86% were motivated to engage in order to have an impact on society.
Academics not motivated by money
It is not money that makes a difference. Only 25% indicated that the opportunity to increase their personal income motivated them to engage.
We often think that there are just too many barriers to engagement. These barriers range from difficulty in agreeing on Intellectual Property (IP), to mismatches in culture, to a lack of personal contacts with industry, and so on.
But are these barriers really inhibiting engagement?
Few academics in the survey agreed. Only 15% of respondents agreed that their research was too far removed from the end users. 16% agreed that end user engagement doesn’t help achieve their career goals.
Just under one third of respondents agreed that engaging with end users is difficult, that they don’t have relevant skills, or personal contacts or that it would detract them from undertaking other research.
Building stronger relationship between academics and industry
A simple focus on financial incentives alone won’t make a difference.
In the eyes of the academics responding to the survey, they need: Time, support and an environment encouraging of engagement.
Time to dedicate to the networking and relationship building that will lead to successful collaboration. It is relationships, not just single transactions, that breed success. These relationships are integral to research and teaching; integral to the university’s role in society. Yet building relationships takes time.
Support mechanisms are significant enablers. While important for all, they are crucial for newcomers. 80% of the respondents who had not previously engaged with business desire it.
The support comprises staff dedicated to assist in finding end-users, help define applications, facilitate networking and conduct project management. By supporting academics behind the scenes, they enable them to focus on what they are good at – working with their business partners on achieving the desired outcomes.
An environment perceived as encouraging engagement stimulates further engagement. The survey shows that only 29% of respondents who have not worked with business view their local research group as encouraging engagement, compared to 77% of those who have engaged extensively. An encouraging team atmosphere, support from peers and support networks can all help facilitate an engagement friendly culture.
The research suggests that we need to shift our thinking on this topic, away from extrinsic motivators such as money, and towards a focus on what intrinsically motivates academics to engage, such as impact.
The conversation must move away from “overcoming barriers”, which in the eyes of most academics don’t actually exist. We are wasting time dreaming up solutions to problems that don’t exist.
‘It takes three to tango’
Not every academic will engage closely with industry, nor do we want every academic to engage. We need to establish the ecosystem in which engagement is easy and rewarding.
As former Chief Scientist Ian Chubb recently put it: “It takes three to tango”.
Not all academics will want to tango with business; tango is close, intense and full of twists and turns. Yet many want to line dance, foxtrot, or quickstep. They want to engage in different ways.
The Australian government needs to consider the policy framework that enables academics to engage in a way that is best for them and their partners through the provision of time, support, encouragement and recognition.
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
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
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.
Celebrating Australian Innovators translation of Knowledge & Research into business
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.
The inaugural Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia (KCA) Research Commercialisation Awards recognise research organisations success in creatively transferring their knowledge into the broader community and transferring their research into products or services with companies to grow new industries in Australia.
This year’s Awards include;
- 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.
- 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
Best Commercial Deal
Curtin University – Scanalyse sale
Curtin University sold its shares in award winning “Scanalyse” to international engineering company Outotec. Scanalyse laser scanning technology accurately models the interior of crushers and mills to monitor their condition, saving the mineral processing industry millions of dollars per annum. The business continues to employ 25 local staff in Western Australia.
Griffith Enterprise (Griffith University) – Silicon Carbide Coast
Griffith University is helping build a Silicon Carbide Coast through a suite of deals designed to commercialise its silicon carbide (SiC) on silicon (Si) platform technology. A multi-million contract with UK-based SPTS Technologies has facilitated mass-production of SiC wafers. A second million-dollar contract with Chinese microelectronics company SICC Materials, was then secured to build and commercialise devices utilising SiC. Partnering with equipment manufacturer and next-gen device manufacturer enables Griffith to maximise the new material’s commercialisation opportunities. Building on this foundation Griffith and partners aim to establish an R&D, prototyping and high tech manufacturing precinct in South East Queensland.
UniQuest – Janssen deal with dendright technology targeting rheumatoid arthritis
Researchers at the University of Queensland have designed a new drug, Curcusome-RA to treat rheumatoid arthritis before irreversible joint destruction takes place. UniQuest were successful in closing a funding deal with Pharmaceutical company Janssen to support Phase 1 clinical trials and ongoing R&D and have access rights to commercialise Curcusome-RA worldwide.
Best Creative Engagement Strategy
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.
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.
Adelaide Research & Innovation Pty Ltd – “One Health” Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance
Adelaide University have formed the most comprehensive data set and national network in collaboration with Zoetis(formerly Pfizer) and 22 govt, private and university veterinary diagnostic labs for Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in animals anywhere in the world. The collaborative program for the surveillance of AMR, known as “One Health” tackles bacterial infections that kill over 9000 people in Australia annually, more than breast cancer, prostate cancer and car accidents combined.
Curtin University – West Tech Fest/ OzAPPs
The West Tech Fest/OzAPP Awards provides a focal point to attract global entrepreneurs and investors to Perth at least once a year to enable local developers, researchers, budding entrepreneurs and others to engage, learn and be inspired. Raising $1 million in cash/in kind contributions towards prize money and running the event has led to the establishment of a numerous of start-up companies and laid a path to a more diverse economy in the region (OzAPP Awards partners with a range of co-working spaces, accelerators and other organisations accessing over 400+ start-ups and 25,000+ people with a passion for technology).
Wrays the major sponsor of the 2014 Awards, Wrays’ CEO Frank Hurley says, “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.”
The winners will be announced at the 2014 KCA Annual Conference Awards dinner on Thursday 18 September, in Brisbane.
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.