Ensuring technology transfer between industry, academia

Technology transfers are important for the commercial application of research. Academia contributes significantly towards innovation and industry taps the commercial potential of these developments, which will eventually benefit the society at large. However, due to various concerns in mutual arrangements and procedural hurdles only about 10-15% of the technologies developed in academia are transferred to the industry for commercialization.

Despite striking cultural differences in work style and goals, academia is now focusing on technology transfers and promoting startup culture. Technology transfers provide opportunities to smaller companies to develop commercially viable products, which eventually helps in the refinement and further development of related technologies. It is right to say that collaboration in research and development is a more productive option for sustainable growth of both industry and academia. Academic research needs to be more focused on the industrial and commercial viability of the projects and requires a thorough consultation with related industries.

Understanding the timelines for product development and marketing is important. In the pharmaceutical sector, for example, the drug would require different stages of development such as identification of a problem, development of the solution (molecule, compound, formulation, composition, etc.), characterization and analysis of the product, laboratory testing, assessment for commercial viability, regulatory approvals and clinical trials. The development of a product, including commercialization, requires professionals with different domain expertise that may work simultaneously or sequentially in different time frames to get the final product that yields economic benefits.

For effective technology transfer among participating institutions, an understanding of the concerns and constraints of the collaborating parties is essential. It is necessary to conduct a proper technology assessment and study of financial implications before undertaking a project to avoid putting efforts into an outdated technology and to provide practical and feasible timelines by taking into account on the ground realities.

It is also advisable to consider procedural or regulatory requirements at the planning stage and to take adequate measures to ensure compliance. Identification and management of support systems required for the efficient execution of projects should also be worked out before their launch.

Transparency among the parties is also important. Periodic review and assessment of projects and addressing the concerns arising from the execution of the projects will also reduce risks. It is also essential to monitor cost, timelines for decision-making and proper execution of communication protocols among parties for the technology transfer.
Agreements that address the terms of technology transfer, responsibilities, timelines for each stage, equity, and profit-sharing are important for driving collaborative projects to success.

Another concern relates to the understanding of the legal framework by both parties. Most often, academia is unfamiliar with the regulatory landscape due to lack of direct interaction. However, it is essential to work within the regulatory frameworks.

For example, a test performed and data generated in a facility without approval from the drug authority will not be valid for conducting clinical trials or for product registration. It is essential to fill communication gaps and build bridges at the beginning of the project by regular consultation among experts from academia and industry that will lead to the generation of new ideas for research and product development.

An important concern in the relationship is financial resources, where it is usually believed that industry has huge funds to invest. However, this is not true in the case of many startups and small-scale enterprises.

Technology transfer helps in promoting academia and industry, both in their capabilities and visibility. Therefore, collaboration among academia and industry will inevitably lead to an increase in high-value commercial product/technology for the public. Albeit, greater onus lies on industry to assess the risks involved in developing an idea, validating the requirement and feasibility for execution of the project.

Ensuring technology transfer between industry, academia by Pankaj Musyuni and Dr. Pradeep Kumar Kamal


Article was 1st published in India Business Law Journal