The management of technology transfer from research institutes to industry : isolating key components of process success and failure
"Innovate or die" is a long-standing creed in industry. Collaboration between companies is one route that businesses are pursuing with vigour, in an effort to gain competitive advantage. Few UK companies look to the dedicated research institutes (DRDCs) that exist as a source of innovation and industrial collaboration. This is despite the high regard bestowed on the creative abilities of the scientific teams at these centres of excellence. The purpose of this study is not to answer why this is so, but to help improve the chances of success when it occurs. The study was born out of a Government-funded LINK project, which evaluated the benefits, to project commercialisation, of conducting market research in tandem with the technical stages of R&D at public research institutes. Exposure to the professional cultures, work ethos and personal attitudes of team-members at the DRDCs and their commercial partners alerted the researcher to the challenges presented by technology transfer between such organisations. The literature is populated by studies that detail the stresses and strains of technology transfer. However, little attention has been directed exclusively at cases involving DRDCs. The primary aim of the study is to identify the driving forces behind technology transfer success from DRDCs to industry. It draws on the framework of the IMP Group to structure the context of investigation. It uses the findings of past studies to structure the content of investigation. A qualitative approach involving 13 detailed case studies constitutes its methodology. The cases cover both public and privately-funded DRDCs in the UK and the Netherlands, including examples from agricultural engineering, food sciences and biotechnology. The results highlight seven key antecedents as areas at which good management practice should be targeted. The study concludes by addressing the underlying mechanisms behind transfer process success. It finds that it is too simplistic to focus on any one of the three dimensions of technology transfer (organisational, human and environmental) 'at the exclusion of the others, as past studies have done. Successful transfer is found to depend on three cross-dimensional underlying mechanisms:- • checking the innovation is appropriate to the recipient • establishing a suitable transfer process • and providing an effective conduit for routing the knowledge transfer.