What is tech transfer

Technology transfer is the process of developing practical applications for the results of scientific research.The process to commercially exploit research varies widely.

It can involve licensing agreements or setting up joint ventures and partnerships to share both the risks and rewards of bringing new technologies to market. Other corporate vehicles, e.g. spin-outs, are used where the host organisation does not have the necessary resources or skills to develop a new technology.

However, the main aim of technology transfer is to take fundamental scientific discoveries and make them into marketable products so that the general public at large can benefit from the research as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In order to successfully develop technology transfer of a product, it must be ensured that the technology underlying the invention is appropriately protected via Intellectual Property provisions. These can involve patents, trade marks, design rights and database rights as well as the non-registerable rights of copyright and know how.

Working with UCL researchers, the UCLB assesses new technology and invention disclosures for their commercial potential, seeking patent protection wherever possible. This assessment also helps to determine whether the technology should be commercialised by licensing or through a spin-out company.


Licensing technologies

If licensing is chosen, UCLB works with the inventors to identify potential licensees and lead the negotiations with the licensing partner.

If spin-out is the preferred route, commercialisation usually begins with more detailed market assessment activities and the preparation of a business plan. If this confirms that a spin-out company is a feasible proposition, then the technology transfer team works with the inventors and external advisors to raise funds and recruit a management team with skills and experience capable of exploiting the opportunity.


Creating a spin-out company

Creating a spin-out company around a technology has the potential to generate significant wealth as a large share of any profits made are retained by the company, with the inventors being shareholders in that company. Creating a spin-out may also be an appropriate commercialisation route when there is a need to develop a technology further to extract its commercial value or when the team surrounding the technology are strongly entrepreneurial.


 Is my technology suitable?

The following questions provide a good framework for assessing whether the technology developed during your research has the potential to form the basis of a spin-out company:

  • Does the opportunity match your experience, skills and interests and do you have a sense of urgency to exploit the opportunity?
  • Can you recruit and lead the team needed to exploit the opportunity? If you cannot, are you willing to accept external management input?
  • Do the opportunity’s resource needs (time, money, effort) shorten the odds of success?
  • Is the timing of the opportunity right?
  • Does the opportunity constitute a scaleable (and ultimately saleable) business?
  • Does the opportunity offer good margin potential?
  • Are you developing an opportunity or an idea?

UCLB can help you answer these questions and discover whether this route is for you.


How do you start a spin-out company?

Once a technology’s potential has been quantified and an interim management team has been identified, an appropriate business strategy must be formulated to maximise the chances of success. UCLB can assist in developing a business plan, establishing a company, licensing IP into the company, building a team and securing funding.


How much time must you invest in a spin-out company?

Creating a spin-out company is more involved than licensing and is not something that UCL undertakes lightly. Continual input from key inventors is essential to the success of a company and the average spin-out will require involvement from its founders for 3 to 5 years.


How does the UCL academic benefit from a spin-out being formed?

Those who contribute to the creation of a spin-out company built around UCL technology receive an equity stake in that company. The exact stake received depends on the individual’s contribution in developing the initial intellectual property, their level of on-going involvement after the company has been formed and the number of people involved. Spin-out companies invariably require external investment and the level of capital committed to the company will also impact the equity splits.

Find out more by contacting one of our Business Managers.