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The bridge between university and business: the strategic role of technology transfer

Published in: Intellectual Property
by Arlo Canella
Home > The bridge between university and business: the strategic role of technology transfer

In this article, we investigate the importance of university intellectual property for business, the process of joint development with academic institutions and the initial steps to collaborate with research institutes.

Why should companies pay more attention to the intellectual property of Italian universities?

Italian universities are at the forefront of technology development in several fields, including materials science, medicine, energy, aerospace and information and communication technology (ICT). Through academic research, universities contribute to finding innovative solutions to technical and scientific problems, improving people’s quality of life and promoting economic growth.

Technology transfer departments, called Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs), play a key role in the process of enhancing academic research and promoting innovation. Among the main tasks of TTOs is the protection of intellectual property (IP).

TTOs assist researchers in protecting their inventions through the registration of patents, designs, copyrights and the protection of confidential information. Companies, by negotiating with TTOs, can license or transfer IP rights and exploit innovations developed in the academic environment to improve their products, services or production processes.

The benefits for companies are quite numerous:

  1. Firstly, as mentioned above, companies gain a competitive advantage by exploiting academic discoveries.
  2. In addition, by using the results of university research, research and development (R&D) costs and time can be reduced.
  3. On top of that, as well as collaborating with real experts in the field and benefiting from their specialised expertise, companies also gain undeniable positive effects in terms of corporate image.

How does the development of new products take place in collaboration with academic institutions?

The development of new products in collaboration with academic institutions takes place through a coordinated and interdisciplinary process involving researchers, companies and practitioners.

On the institutional side, the role of Knowledge and Technology Transfer Managers (KTTM) is central to this process, as they act as mediators between academia and business.

Among other things, KTTMs are responsible for:

  • identifying and evaluating opportunities for collaboration, weighing up the commercial potential of innovations and technologies developed in universities;
  • facilitating the conclusion of licensing and collaboration agreements between universities and interested companies, concerning intellectual property (patents, copyright, design, know-how);
  • support the creation of spin-offs and start-ups based on university technologies and knowledge.

An IP lawyer plays a key role in collaborations between companies and academic institutions, ensuring the proper protection and management of IP rights. His main responsibilities are:

  • providing legal advice on IP rights protection and management;
  • drafting and reviewing contracts relating to the use of IP rights;
  • managing registration and monitoring of patents, trademarks, designs and copyrights;
  • representing parties involved in IP-related litigation and dispute resolution;
  • maintain up-to-date knowledge of regulations and provide training on IP-related issues.

Which first steps should be taken to collaborate with research institutes?

NETVAL, the Network for Research Valorisation, is a recognised association of universities, public research organisations and other organisations involved in technology transfer. Its mission is the valorisation of public research, creating a community of TTO professionals and facilitating the sharing of good practices, resources and opportunities.

The Netval 2023 Report, entitled “Piovono idee per la rinascita“, analyses the current scenario and forecasts the future development of Technology Transfer and, more generally, of the Third Mission in Italian public research institutions. The report gathers data and experiences, offering a detailed overview of the Italian context in the field of innovation and collaboration between public research and enterprises.

If a company wants to venture into collaboration with academic institutions and technology transfer, the first steps are to

  1. identify the areas of interest and competences needed for development and innovation;
  2. search for academic institutions and research centres with complementary skills and technologies;
  3. establish contacts with universities’ Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) and Knowledge and Technology Transfer Managers (KTTMs).

When starting a collaboration, it is also possible to request the support of an IP lawyer for the drafting and negotiation of contracts, the definition of IP protection arrangements and the management of any legal issues.

The Canella Camaiora Law Firm stands out as an ideal interlocutor for technology transfer and collaboration between companies and academic institutions, mainly due to its long-standing and proven expertise in the field of intellectual property. The firm’s team of experts can handle matters related to patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, offering a comprehensive and customised service.

The Firm has extensive experience in the area of contracts and specialised litigation. This expertise provides effective and timely solutions to ease collaboration between the parties involved in the technology transfer process. Canella Camaiora is therefore an ideal partner for companies and academic institutions wishing to undertake technology transfer projects, thanks to its ability to offer comprehensive legal support throughout the entire process.

© Canella Camaiora Sta. All rights reserved.
Publication date: 28 February 2024

Textual reproduction of the article is permitted, even for commercial purposes, within the limit of 15% of its entirety, provided that the source is clearly indicated. In the case of online reproduction, a link to the original article must be included. Unauthorised reproduction or paraphrasing without indication of source will be prosecuted.
Avv. Arlo Cannela

Avvocato Arlo Canella

Managing Partner of the Canella Camaiora Law Firm, member of the Milan Bar Association, passionate about Branding, Communication and Design.
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