The Technology Transfers Offices (TTOs) in the universities are the new phenomena led by Higher Education Commission – HEC Pakistan. The TTO is called “Office of Research Innovation and Commercialization – ORIC” here in Pakistan. The ORICs try to bring industry closer to researchers with the hope that research will gain its relevance and acceptance in the society and industry. The environment of the technology support office and the infrastructure contributes greatly to the innovative researches produced by academia. Empowering academic scientists with the possible technology management support makes them able to produce a commercially feasible innovation (Rahim, Mohamed, & Amrin, 2015). We have outlined 10 pertinent challenges in academia – industry linkages. These points are extracted from technology transfer experience of last seven years.
How much faculty understands the technology needs, application and the environment supposed to absorb and consume the technology is the basic challenge. The scientists grown up in academic environment have weaker understanding about industrial context and unable to deliver technology as per requirements.
Similarly, industry understanding of academic strengths and limits in terms of technology development may halt the joint working. Industry expects unrealistically what academic scientists may not be able to deliver.
ORIC role becomes significant to develop a real and clear understanding about each other’s strengths and limitations. ORIC needs to build the capacity to help both academia and industry have realistic expectation, understand well and recognize strengths.
There are a number of failures in university-industry working which widens the trust gap. The poor designing of project leads to the failure. Both academia and industry has no prior experiences and success stories on how to make join technology project a success. Therefore it is critical to understand how the working experience will start at the initial stage.
Our experiences show that high tech projects with very much assured delivery of competitive products are destined to failure. The short low tech project aiming for small deliverables and incremental improvements get success and build good experiences for next level collaboration.
ORIC needs to design the university-industry experience from low to high and may need to focus on incremental operational improvements at the start.
- Real value
Currently universities are not much specialized or known for technology delivery in specific areas. Industry demands prior experience or focused area to work on. ORIC needs to develop an area of focus working where real value can be delivered. The initial stage of working demands a lot of concentration on core value to be offered to industry. Being general and attempting every problem may lead both parties to nowhere. The ORICs need to pick their best faculty and plan a promised value offering for industry with all the support and backup. This will also inspire industry to trust and work on those specific issues with that specialized institution.
Academia and industry expect from ORIC and the scientist to deliver solutions to local society and industry without addressing the question “why”. Practically this why does not exist behind both the scientist and industry. Why the scientists dedicate time and attention for technology instead of teaching and publishing? Why industry invest time and attention with local scientists instead of buying technology from abroad.
The question of “why” must be addressed through incentive system for both the scientist and industry to work for each other’s. The scientist must find incentives, job security and promotion in developing locally needed technologies and solving problems (Debackere & Veugelers, 2005).
The industry must find incentives and profit in working with local scientists as compared to buying from abroad.
Technology experience is new for the entire nation in Pakistan. ORICs, Scientists and industry managers need to build their capacity on how to succeed in joint technology projects. ORICs need capacity of technology management including contract drafting, licensing, IP and tracking of project from start to end. The scientist needs capacity to understand industry context, market competition, technology interventions and how to respond these challenges in target technology.
Industry needs capacity and learning on how to work with academia, utilize strengths of the scientist and design the project according to academic working.
- Institutional backup
The technology projects need scientific skills of researchers but duly ownership of the institution too. The technology development is fundamental component but yield no value unless fully supported by the institution in many aspects. The lack of institution ownership is major reason in projects failure with industry and weak linkages. The institution needs to provide full ownership, facilitation in terms of resources and labs, support for faculty interaction and involvement.
Institution also needs to provide an environment of appreciation and encouragement for technology projects and industry interaction. The academic working load like teaching and administration often does not allow the scientist to deliver promised technology. The universities need to provide flexible timing for the scientists need lot of interaction and working for technology projects.
The scientists in academia are trained to think and present technologies in terms of validity, significance and scientific rigor. The industry thinks and talks in terms of economics, profits, investment size and payback period. No technology can fit in the industry context unless it is translated in terms of profit and investment.
ORICs need to develop capacity of turning science into economics for industry acceptance. There needs to be professionals in ORIC who understand science and economics and present science work in the forms of business plans and feasibilities.
- IP Management
The management of intellectual property plays critical role in success and failure of technology projects. The technologies without proper IP management become freeware, lose standardization and wasted due to misuse and production faults. The proper IP management through institutional backing ensures right path of technology progress from idea to production and consumer response.
ORICs need to spread awareness about IP management and its benefits to both scientist and industry. The ORICs needs specialized expertise of IP management at all the stage of technology development.
The governance at large and specifically technology governance is very critical for technology success. The poor governance in the society encourages lawlessness, copying and technology robbery. The investment of both academia and industry yields zero value if it is copied and no one is there to protect the inventor and investor.
ORICs and Industry needs to work on innovation eco system to strengthen the technology and innovation governance in the country. This is fundamental for trust on technology and university – industry linkages.
The technology and innovation is the product of society, culture, customs and over all brought up of the citizen. The overall environment of the society set the belief system and people behave accordingly. The dilemma of the developing countries includes people’s disbelieve on long term projects of technology innovation. People are afraid of insecure and spend our day to secure their tomorrow. People have less time to invest on new ideas and technologies which results in many fold return after a decade or so.
The risk-aversion behavior also disables people to believe in risk taking initiatives of technology innovation. The society needs to encourage people for risk and reward them for failures. ORICs and industries need to work on overall society and culture to promote risk taking, open thinking, innovativeness and learning by mistakes.
By facing the above challenges, ORICs need to build valuable university-industry linkages with the support of its Institution, academic researchers’ and industry cooperation. ORICs are the central and integral part to bridge the gap between university and industry. ORIC drivers can foster these collaborations making academic scientists and policy makers to strengthen their weak areas and thus exhibiting overall performance (Hülsbeck, Lehmann, & Starnecker, 2013).
- Rahmat Ullah, Chief Coordinator, Institute of Research Promotion, General Secretary, SATHA, Manager ORIC, University of Management and Technology (UMT), Lahore – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Aafia Khalid, Research Officer, South Asia Triple Helix Association (SATHA), UMT, Lahore – email@example.com
Debackere, K., & Veugelers, R. (2005). The role of academic technology transfer organizations in improving industry science links. Research policy, 34(3), 321-342.
Hülsbeck, M., Lehmann, E. E., & Starnecker, A. (2013). Performance of technology transfer offices in Germany. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 38(3), 199-215.
Rahim, N. A., Mohamed, Z. B., & Amrin, A. (2015). Commercialization of emerging technology: the role of academic entrepreneur. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 169, 53-60.