Innovation of Business

and the
Business of Innovation™
Toolkit - Technology Transfer

The Technology Transfer InnoKit

Imagine you are a reporter, and your editor has sent you out to do a story on technology transfer.  Using the old adage for reporters you would ask,

Who?   What?   When?   Where?
Why?   How?   and   What cost?

Let’s use that formula to create a vision of technology transfer.  To make the story easier to tell, rearrange the questions.

Why?  Technology transfer moves developing products from “source of technology” to “commercial developer or “adopter.” At a more detailed view, transfer moves technology from initial idea to markets of customers. The Tech-Transfer InnoKit™ speaks to movement from engineering or other early development to productization within or outside of the organization. The inventor of the technology is often known as the source. The organization that acquires the technology is known as the adopter.

The adopter can be within the source company. In that sense, engineering (for example) may transfer a technology to marketing for movement to commercial buyers.

Why would either side make the effort.

Transfer of technologies solves problems and creates opportunities for both sides of the transaction.  Tech transfer is a win-win proposition, or it doesn’t happen. An integrated study of technology movement in industry and federal labs by Gary Lundquist showed that…

  • Movement of technology is as important to business success as is creation of technology.
  • Integrating creation and movement is the key to the impact of science and engineering.
  • Technology transfer is as important to business success as are science and engineering.

Who?  Agents of change transfer technologies. These are people or organizations that enable connections between source of technology and potential licensees. Agents of change combine vision, active learning, leadership, strategy, selling skills, cooperation, communication, and relationship skills.  In short, they have marketing skills.

Studies show that employers want engineers who can move their “products” to the next stage of development.  Thus change-agent skills are as important to career success as are technical discipline skills.  

Where?  Technology moves from initial idea to final sale along a development path called a “value chain.”  Technology transfer happens between value-chain steps, as between research and development, between development and manufacturing, between end product and end user.

Every value chain is a linked sequence of technology transfers, and every technology transfer is part of a value chain.  This is true whether the value chain is internal to a company or crosses corporate boundaries.

When?  Transfer happens when four key barriers fall to threshold levels.

Source:  Proves it can produce and use the technology.

Adopter:  Has the skills, equipment, and infrastructure to use the technology.

Agreement:  The two sides find each other and achieve win-win agreements.

Trust:  Each trusts the other to meet the terms of agreement.

What?  A technology is the ability to produce a prototype that meets specific performance standards.  That’s right – technologies are abilities.  Innovators can’t hold a technology in thier hands.  They must hold them in their minds. 

Think about that for a moment.  Though counter-intuitive, this single concept is core to transfer success.

Cost-justification?  Product development is an investment that is justified between each step of company value chains.  The same proofs must be made to justify transfer between organizations.

Technical Proof:  It works! 

Control Proof:  We own it!  (intellectual property)

Safety Proof:  It’s safe!  (no liabilities)

Value Proof:  Customers need it!

Economic Proof:  A market exists!

Attractiveness Proof:  The company wants it!

Sizzling proofs compel investment.  Consider presenting your technology as if selling to an end customer. 

How?  Three steps complete a transfer.

Contact:  Between source and adopter(s)

Agreement:  A shared vision of mutual wins that justify transfer, written into licenses, cooperative development, spin-outs, acquisitions, etc.

Movement:  Transfer processes

The first two require marketing, a topic we’ll leave to another article.  The second also requires legal work. The third gets into transfer mechanics.

Mechanics begin by understanding that a technology is made of six abilities.

Design:  Commonly understood result of a value-chain step

Architecture:  Rules for putting designs together

Tools:  Methods for creating a design

Standards:  Industry constraints on design implementation

Infrastructure:  Resources needed to implement a design

Processes:  Methods for managing all of the above

Checklists or project-management systems then ensure successful transfer.  Remember to transfer abilities.  At their core, transfer mechanics are all about education.

Conclusion:  In practice, technology transfer is a powerful paradigm for development and delivery of value by any organization that serves customers. 

Tech transfer is also an important paradigm for personal careers.  We hold responsibilities for both invention and movement of our inventions.  We are responsible for changing what is possible.





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