Good match vital in marriage of research and commerce

Knowledge Transfer Summit to address issues in commercialising research

Academics focus on research, but to turn it into an innovation it needs to meet a demand and contribute to a viable business.

Academics focus on research, but to turn it into an innovation it needs to meet a demand and contribute to a viable business.

 

“Very often academic industry collaborations fail because there isn’t a shared vision or there isn’t shared value that can be created, sometimes out of curiosity an academic comes up with a discovery but it might not quite meet a need.” Martin Curley, professor of innovation at NUI Maynooth, explains how to make sure that marriage between academia and commercial business does not end in divorce.

“The recipe of success is when you actually have a stated need. When academics and industry people can come together around a shared agenda. There’s a shared vision of what can be achieved, you can articulate what’s the shared value. Sometimes a university will value their IP more than it actually is worth and sometimes industry have a tendency to undervalue the IP.”

When the two forces meet it can bring about something special but trying to keep the balance between research and business can often be a tricky one. After all, academics are all about their research, publishing papers and making new discoveries but at the end of the day to turn it into an innovation it needs to meet a demand and make a viable business. Kilian Cawley, managing director of PE Labs, found it’s best to be up-front about this as he embarked on a research project with DIT.

“We started off very much on the commercial side of things and when we sat down and were very clear on those things we started to talk to the professors, the academics, we all sat around and we then started to discuss what could be done. It left it much clearer, the fact that we had the commercial assistance and clarity with the college at the very outset.”

Summit

The discussion on research and commercial business collaboration is a topic set to be reviewed by a panel at the forthcoming Knowledge Transfer Irelandsummit next month where Clare Hughes, managing director of CF Pharma, will outline her experience of the Innovation Partnership Programme and UCD during research into an automated system to inform farmers of their animals’ gut health.

“One of the things that worried me about the project initially was the fact I didn’t want it to be a useless – and I say this as a business person – a useless piece of academic research, something that didn’t have a commercial outcome. I’m commercial at the end of the day and I run a business where investigational studies might be interesting to academics but unless they actually have a positive commercial outcome they are not really interesting to me. I was aware of that and a little bit scared of that at the start.”

CF Pharam’s Trish McOwan went into UCD as project manager. “She basically set herself up in UCD for the period that this was being run to manage the various characters and people involved in UCD so that she could pull it all together. I think that really putting someone that is focused on the commerciality of the project into university was really vital to getting to where we are at the moment.”

Another topic up for discussion will be adding supply-chain partners into the mix, something that Cook Medical’s director of research, John Neilan, believes is the way forward.

“Now we have taken it a step further where we’ve also engaged with our supply-chain partners on an innovation partnership where we are looking at developing next-generation manufacturing technology. We are engaging with one of the academic research providers, it’s actually one of the institutes of technology and we are developing next generation manufacturing technology both ourselves and our supply-chain partners are paid up partners in that.”

Can there be room for three parties in the same marriage?

The Knowledge Transfer Summit takes place on Thursday, September 14th at the Mansion House, Dawson St, Dublin 2. For more details see: http://www.knowledgetransferireland.com/Events/

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