In my last post regarding the Israeli Technology Transfer Company (TTC) and the potential change due to the recent call for tender for a TTC to attend the needs of the colleges in Israel, the discussion ended with the question regarding the universities’ TTCs, should they unite or not.
In order to discuss this point in a meaningful way one has to consider the following points regarding academy- industry commercialization:
· Academic knowledge is seldom “ready for use” for the intended industrial purposes and requires additional development and sometime complementing technologies.
· Due to the nature of academic competition, competing technologies will be found at different research groups. That knowledge if packaged together could present a valuable IP block for the industry.
· Locating the required academic knowledge can be problematic as a result of the complexity of research interests that do not necessarily fit faculty division. A single point of contact could help the industry locate the knowledge faster and easier.
· Ethics – all research center technologies should get an even chance to be protected and marketed – there should be not preference to competing technologies, unless from the market side. Different institutes may demand preferences.
· Centralizing the activity would reduce overhead, duplication and infrastructural cost (e.g. annual accountant audit, administration etc.).
· In Israel the TTCs are funded by university funds which are public funds, so the organizational structure of the TTCs in all universities is a matter of public interest. Same applies to the revenues gathered by the TTCs on behalf of the universities using the knowledge developed by university trained and paid for personnel and using university infra-structure.
The points regarding distances, distribution of expertise etc. are very general and in any case would not have a big influence in specific regions or small countries.
Reviewing the points above it would seem that the universities in Israel would only benefit from the merger of their TTCs. The administrative, management and general costs would be reduced, the knowledge could be packaged containing complementary knowledge from several universities, and the management and ethical questions could be resolved (e.g. TLB solution, or the French SATT). The main benefit would not be the saving in my opinion, as there would be travels and offices etc. in each campus, but the ability to form a joint commercialization strategy and package the knowledge better.
The main obstacle would be the sunk cost each university has in its TTC and the complex agreements and exclusivity issues stemming from about 50 years of activity.