Academic Spin-Offs and Technology Transfer in Europe
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Academic Spin-Offs and Technology Transfer in Europe

Best Practices and Breakthrough Models

Edited by Sven H. De Cleyn and Gunter Festel

While the US has traditionally been successful in commercialising new technologies, Europe is confronted with an increasing dependency for fast developing technologies like biotechnology or ICT, despite having some of the best universities in the world. This book will explore the key attributes of commercialising academic knowledge, focusing on spin-offs. Bringing together the visions and best practices used by leading academics and professionals across Europe, the editors provide new and practical insights on the topic in an attempt to resolve the European paradox.
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Chapter 10: Flipping the knowledge transfer model using start-ups: how entrepreneurs can stimulate faster adoption of academic knowledge

Sven H. De Cleyn and Frank Gielen


Research institutions, such as universities, university colleges and other public research organizations (PROs), have been engaging in knowledge transfer outside their boundaries for centuries, using mostly education and publications as their preferred channels. More recently, PROs have been trying to find other, more direct ways to inject new knowledge into applications for business and society, usually facilitated by a technology transfer office (TTO) or industrial liaison office (ILO). The TTO is usually a dedicated group of people within the PRO (sometimes as a separate department or even as a separate legal entity) with the purpose of supporting the PRO in its efforts to bring research results into (commercial) application (including but not limited to negotiating and signing licensing deals and supporting the creation of spin-off ventures). Additionally, the TTO sometimes has extra functions, including negotiating contract research agreements or some project management for externally funded research projects (including projects funded by the European Commission or local authorities). In this sense, PROs have been increasingly engaging in more entrepreneurship-related activities: establishing spin-off ventures, setting up investment funds, etc. This additional role has sometimes been described as the third mission of PROs (besides research and education) (Etzkowitz, 1998). However, the common approach adopted by TTOs relates closely to a technology-push or inside-out approach, where new knowledge is mostly ‘pushed’ from the research institution towards third parties (e.g. through the sale of intellectual property, licensing or creating spin-off ventures to commercialize new technologies). This approach poses specific challenges and many PROs are struggling to derive enough benefits from their knowledge transfer activities, both in the short as well as the long term.

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