Technology Transfer from Academia to Industry

A recent guest speaker at KAUST, Fred Farina, Chief Innovation Officer at the California Institute of Technology and Executive Director of Caltech's Office of Technology Transfer, gave an enlightening talk on the commercialization of academic research.

As a representative of an academic institution renowned for the efficiency of its technology transfer model, Farina discussed the optimal ways in which universities, as well as research institutions, can license the fruits of their research output to established corporations and by creating new startup companies.

Speaking about his visit to this region he said: "The big topic is the transition to a knowledge economy. People here are looking beyond oil. … Universities are the driving force behind innovation." So the key is in academic and industry partnerships through IP transfers.

But success will be achieved through a long-term commitment according to Farina. The driving force must be to get technology out to benefit the public. "The reality is that it's a hits-driven business" as Farina explained. Only a few inventions will be financially successful. "About 80 to 90% of their revenues come from one or two inventions. The other 10% from thousands of other inventions," he added.

The goal is to establish a process from a research base and fostering an ecosystem, comprised of venture capital and small to large companies, ready to absorb inventions and products.

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