Is it about surviving in the current public system, which is a bit forsaken, or are there maybe unknown options?
A new talk took place on the 20th of February to bring scientists closer to economics knowledge.
With no time to waste, Claudia Nieva introduced us to transfer of technology. It seems logical that an idea should lead to some results. How this happens or should happen to the idea of a scientist is not so logical and requires a little understanding of business dynamics. The idea ought to be clearly defined first, then analysed and a strategy of intellectual property should be devised. Afterwards the project should be licensed —in a existing company or with a spin off— and monitored after being launched.
This process was standardised with the technology readiness level (TRL) scale, considering TRL1 as the starting idea and TRL9 as the highest level, when the product is launched in the market. A company would show an interest on a project from TRL4. For this, a concept test is needed, consisting in convincing the company of the potential of one’s idea without explicitly revealing it, unless confidentiality is ensured. Given the risk involved in this manoeuvre regarding intellectual and industrial property, it is recommended to follow professional advice (from the technology transfer office (TTO) in the research centre) on contracts of confidentiality or collaboration, if it applies, and licences or patents later on.
In some occasions a company will hire the scientist. In this case, the idea of the project will be developed with an agreement under a contract. Public-private collaboration can also be considered. There are several ways to do this: scientific conferences and partnering events with experts from TTOs, innovation strategies (e.g. openinnovationforum.cat) or platforms such as Innoget or Suschem-Spain.
Once an agreement on TRL4 is reached, the main funding sources in Catalonia come from the Generalitat, the Catalan government, with ACCIÓ – Agency for Business Competitiveness. An example is program NUCLIS of local I+D. In Europe, Horizon 2020 offers funding and the chance to organise consortiums using the Enterprise Europe Network (ENN).
Ignasi López Verdeguer joined in with very specific and critical data for the transfer of technology. On one hand, Spain is the 5th country in the EU regarding scientific impact, but it takes the 18th place (out of 28) regarding its capacity for innovation. This suggests that some economic options might exist that are overlooked.
This speaker knows La Caixa Foundation very well. La Caixa invests 520 million € in innovation every year. This money is devoted to social purposes (59 %), culture and education (23 %) and grants and research (18 %). This 18 % from the current 2016-2019 plan tripled since the previous plan. Some centres that benefit from this funding are IrisCaixa, ISGlobal, VHIO or BIST, as well as programs such as INhINIT, JuniorLeader or CaixaImpulse, with their contribution to grants and projects.
The last topic of the talk was philanthropy in science, which varies widely between regions and cultures (read Feldman and Graddy-Reed (2014) Accelerating commercialization: a new model of strategic foundation funding). Venture philanthropy is the financial and non-financial investment to carry out initiatives in innovation with social purposes. The most important investors at European level are the Expert Group on Venture Philanthropy and Social Investments and the European Foundation Centre. The latter wrote the LAB – FAB – APP report to promote research (LAB), competitive fabrication (FAB) and applications for the benefit of all (APP).
To sum up, it is about society taking an active part in supporting a better economic context for scientific initiatives.
Òscar Aznar Alemany