• Date: November 07, 2019

When a cutting-edge medical device, drug or technology is developed in a research institution, it has a long journey ahead before making its way to patients and improving lives. Carrying out clinical trials, meeting legal and regulatory requirements, developing business plans… these are just a few of the steps involved in bringing a biomedical project out of the lab and into the market.

One objective of CaixaImpulse is to guide researchers through this complex and multifaceted process. Each year, the participants learn the basic concepts of technology transfer during a dedicated training week covering this topic. This year, one of the invited experts was Tom Hockaday, a partner of UPF Ventures and UPF Barcelona School of Management, both of which are CaixaImpulse collaborators. As former head of technology transfer at the University of Oxford, and now running his own consultancy, Technology Transfer Innovation, Tom has been guiding research-based innovations to the market for more than 30 years.

“Technology transfer in this context is all about taking exciting ideas and outputs from universities, hospitals and research institutes and transferring them to business”, Tom explains. “Businesses can then invest in these new technologies, and develop products, services, better healthcare interventions, for consumers, for patients, and for people.”

Private business investment, he adds, has the resources and skills needed to take these innovations through to market and patients, in a way that would be almost impossible for research centres to do on their own. “A research institute and a business exist for very different reasons, and so if there was no effort to really make them connect, then the natural course of events is that they may well not,” Tom points out.

The role of technology transfer facilitators—consultants like Tom, acceleration programmes like CaixaImpulse, and tech transfer offices which are now commonplace in universities—is to bridge the gap between these two sectors to ensure that biomedical projects can bring value to society. In Tom’s experience, a new idea or technology has the best chance of entering the market when the various stakeholders have the chance to understand each other’s objective and motivations. It's through these interactions that they can work together to guarantee the success of the enterprise.

Tom credits CaixaImpulse with having played a key role in forging these communities. Being connected with various stakeholders not only helps investors to understand more about the research process, but it also encourages scientists to embark on new research projects with a trajectory towards the market already in mind, which hugely increases the likelihood of success.

Tom’s take-home message is that the key to successful technology transfer is bringing the right people together. He concludes: “Talk to colleagues in your institute who’ve had experience of commercialisation. Talk to your technology transfer office. Talk to CaixaImpulse. Develop your understanding and learning of what’s involved. Because the opportunity can be huge.”

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