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Technology Transfer Organizations

Technology transfer organizations are academic or commercial entities that facilitate intellectual property rights management and technology transfer by bridging the gap between research and practice. They provide support for collaboration and mediate relationships between different innovation stakeholders, such as academia and industry.

What are the different types of technology transfer organizations?

There are various types of technology transfer organizations, such as: Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs), Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISCs), science and technology parks, technology incubators and IP marketplaces.

Read the full list of FAQs on technology transfer.

Two hands assembling two puzzle pieces as a representation of a support network that connects technology creators
(Photo: PeopleImages/Getty Images)

Technology Transfer Offices

Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) are usually created within a university in order to manage its intellectual property (IP) assets and the transfer of knowledge and technology to industry. Sometimes, the mandate of TTOs with respect to collaborative research includes any interaction or contractual relation with the private sector. Common names for such offices differ. Some examples include: Technology Licensing Office (TLO), Technology Management Office, Research Contracts and IP Services Office, Technology Transfer Interface, Industry Liaisons Office, IP and Technology Management Office, and Nucleus of Technological Innovation.

The main reason to establish a TTO is to move innovations from the lab to society and the marketplace to advance the impact of research results on people’s lives. TTOs can be financially sound in the long term: experience has shown that a period of eight to ten years is needed before a TTO can generate sufficient income to sustain its operating costs, and provide a dividend. Therefore, financial support from the government and relevant institutions is required in the interim period.

The roles of Technology Transfer Offices in IP Management

From an IP management point of view, a TTO should have the following functions:

  • Promotion of IP awareness among the institution’s staff members;
  • Management of IP disclosure;
  • Filing for IP protection;
  • Commercialization: (i) Marketing, negotiation and licensing; and (ii) Creation of spin-outs;
  • Maintenance of IP assets;
  • Enforcement of IPRs;
  • Management of revenue sharing;
  • Management of conflict of interest and commitments.

Other functions of Technology Transfer Offices

Where financial sustainability is a key objective, some TTOs may also be involved in the following areas:

  • Management of consultancy services offered by the institutions;
  • Marketing of short courses and related capacity building programs offered by the institutions;
  • Management of contract research and related projects;
  • Marketing other capacities of the institutions, such as laboratory services;
  • Any other income-generating activities identified by the institutions.

Learn more about human resources in TTOs.

A TTO must be economically viable in terms of results and impact. The following benchmarking indicators are typically used to evaluate the performance of TTOs:

  • The number of IP disclosures;
  • The number of IP applications;
  • The number of grants;
  • The number of licensing contracts;
  • The licensing revenue;
  • The number of start-up companies;
  • The number of joint ventures.

TTOs can take various forms. While most universities and research institutions have an internal TTO, some have opted for a different organizational structure, which may better fit their local needs and resources. These can be:

  • Wholly-owned subsidiary company (an external company which is 100% owned by the university or research institution);
  • Private IP service provider;
  • IP management consortium;
  • Government office serving as TTO.

One of the main reasons for using external or joint TTOs is that individual universities may not generate sufficient work to justify the creation of a specialized office with skilled human resources. Nevertheless, the benefit of having a TTO within the university itself is that it enables more direct interactions with the researchers and can prevent situations of institutional mistrust when the office is shared with other institutions.

Interested in more information about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of TTOs?

Download the Guidelines for Customization of the WIPO IP Policy Template for Universities and Research Institutions (article 4) DOC, Guidelines for Customization

Technology and Innovation Support Centers

Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISCs) help innovators access patent information, scientific and technical literature, search tools and databases, and make more effective use of these resources to promote innovation, technology transfer, commercialization and utilization of technologies. The WIPO TISCs program currently supports over 80 countries. WIPO supports its member states in establishing and developing TISCs in universities and other institutions in numerous countries around the world.

Science technology parks

Science and technology parks (STP) are territories usually affiliated with a university or a research institution, which accommodate and foster the growth of companies based therein through technology transfer and open innovation.

Science Technology Parks, established with the support of the Government of Serbia and local universities in three cities in Serbia (Belgrade, Niš, Čačak), provide assistance to startup companies as well as growing high-tech companies (SMEs and R&D departments of large companies) in the development and commercialization of innovative products. In the framework of the STPs, IP Office of Serbia supports technoparks’ residents in the fields of legal IP protection and technology transfer, and prepares a joint project with the Swiss Federal Institute of IP on IPRs management for export.

Established at the end of 2015, STP Belgrade supported development of 60 high tech companies, 50 new technologies, services or products, and facilitated 9 patent registrations within the first year of operations. STP Belgrade’s member companies are currently developing more than 110 innovative products and services, employ more than 800 highly educated staff members and export to more than 40 countries.

Technology incubators

Technology business incubators (TBIs) are organizations that help startup companies and individual entrepreneurs develop their businesses by providing a range of services, including training, brokering and financing.

Read the story on Hashemite University in Jordan.

IP marketplaces

IP marketplaces are Internet-based platforms that allow innovators to connect with potential partners and/or clients. WIPO-lead online platforms such as WIPO GREEN enable collaborations in specific areas of knowledge transfer and facilitate matchmaking between technology providers and technology seekers.