Technology Transfer FAQ

Technology Transfer FAQ

Question: What is technology transfer?

Answer: Technology transfer takes university research and translates innovations into inventions. New technology stemming from the power of university research results in economic and social benefits for our state and society through development and commercialization. A fundamental part of Arizona’s public universities’ mission, technology transfer brings the value of university research to the public - changing lives, improving health and creating jobs.

Aspects that drive the technology transfer process include:

·         Discovering new knowledge and technology.

·         Protecting inventions and technology through patents and copyrights.

·         Forming development and commercialization strategies through avenues such as marketing and licensing for private companies or creating new start-up businesses.

Q: Why do the universities engage in technology transfer?

A: Arizona’s public university enterprise provides opportunities for learning, discovery, research, public service and economic development for Arizona residents and the global community. Technology transfer provides a dynamic outlet in support of this mission by commercializing new knowledge that is discovered or developed at the university. Technology transfer enhances the universities’ mission by:

·         Attracting and retaining world-class faculty.

·         Improving the local economy.

·         Attracting industry sponsored research support.

·         Obtaining licensing and other technology transfer revenue to support further research and commercialization.

Q: What kinds of inventions have stemmed from university research?

A: Google, rocket fuel, the polio vaccine, DNA testing, seatbelts and even the bar code are the result of technology transfer from universities to the marketplace.

Q: Does each university have its own technology transfer office, and is it possible to work with more than one technology transfer office at the same time?

A: Yes. Technology transfer offices at each university allow each institution to develop relationships with local industry and better serve their community, faculty, students and industry. It is possible to work with more than one office at the same time.

Q: How has legislation influenced technology transfer?

A: One of the most visionary pieces of legislation to benefit our institutions was the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, which enabled universities, nonprofit research institutions and small businesses to own and patent inventions developed under federally funded research programs. Recent bonding legislation championed by Gov. Doug Ducey and passed by Arizona’s legislature will contribute to the research endeavor at Arizona’s public universities and thereby technology transfer. Passed by voters in 2001 and renewed in 2018, Proposition 301 directly supports university technology transfer activities and helps move technology from research labs to the private marketplace for the benefit of Arizona and society.

Q: What role does the Arizona Board of Regents play in technology transfer?

A: The board provides strategic vision and oversight of the public universities’ technology transfer operations. Technology transfer updates provided to the board through its Research, Innovation and Impact Committee ensure a continued focus on the endeavor. Access the ABOR website for technology transfer policies, reports and metrics.

Q: How does the board measure success in technology transfer?

A: ABOR has set strategic goals to measure and increase our success in technology transfer. Our universities are working to increase the number of inventions disclosed, new patent applications and the number of new companies formed. Universities also work to optimize revenue from license fees, royalties and cash from intellectual property investments.

Through its fiduciary role, the board’s Research, Innovation and Impact Committee evaluates technology transfer metrics to measure progress in university technology transfer and commercialization. Committee agendas are available here and technology transfer indicators are in the Annual Research Report.

Q: How can I contact a technology transfer office at Arizona’s public universities?

A: Click on the links below or call Arizona’s public universities’ technology transfer offices:

Q: Why is technology transfer important for Arizona’s public universities?

A: Besides benefitting our state through job creation and society through potentially life-saving innovation, technology transfer enhances the ability for universities to retain entrepreneurial faculty, attract outstanding graduate students, contribute to the institution’s reputation for innovation, augment its research program and enhance the university’s reputation for providing highly trained students for the workforce.

Q: How many companies, patents and inventions have been created recently through technology transfer?

A: From 2013 to 2017 Arizona public university commercialization efforts resulted in 122 start-up companies,  501 U.S. patents issued and 2,548 invention disclosures transacted.

Q: Who profits from technology transfer, and does the state benefit?  

A: Researchers benefit from introducing new technology to the market by developing start-up and spin-off companies in partnership with private industry as well as receiving compensation when their idea is licensed to a private party.

The state of Arizona realizes profits from university technology transfer through the required sharing of licensing revenue through state statute. Companies realize profits through the development, marketing and profits of products resulting from the technology transfer.

Members of the public benefit from improvements to the economy that result from technology being in the marketplace, including profits from new technologies, products, jobs and tax revenue.

Q: What are the costs of technology transfer?

A: Millions of dollars are spent each year in bringing new university technology to the market.

There are costs associated with these pursuits such as operating technology transfer offices, expenses from developing new technologies with university faculty, obtaining and protecting patents, costs of marketing to private companies and aiding in the process of starting up new companies.

Q: Is there a standard technology transfer agreement for the entire system?

A: No. Each agreement is designed and negotiated to provide new technology the best chance of succeeding in the marketplace. Each tech-transfer office treats and negotiates each license agreement separately with the goal of serving needs of the university and the licensee’s business model in the best possible manner.

All of the three universities’ technology transfer agreements start with the same basic components, a focus on fair value, protecting parties from liability and promoting the technology to the greatest extent possible. Each agreement is adapted to be consistent with the business model for the technology.

Q: How long does it take to acquire technology that I may be interested in from a university?

A: Depending on the sophistication of the agreement and the negotiations between the parties, the process can take from several days to several months. The tech-transfer office strives to complete the deal as efficiently and effectively as possible and makes every effort to operate on the licensing party’s timeline and business cycle.

Q: Where do the universities list their available technology?

A: Each technology transfer office lists available technologies. Click on the links below for more information:

Q: How do faculty members become involved in technology transfer?

A: Researchers at Arizona’s public universities are comprised of individuals representing a wide range of talent from engineering to healthcare. Technology transfer offers faculty members a chance to bring their innovative and potentially lifesaving research to the general public through the power of partnerships between universities and businesses.

Tech-transfer offices work with university faculty and provide incentives to encourage technology transfer and entrepreneurship. Technology transfer offices consistently engage with faculty regarding commercializing discoveries.

Q: Do the universities give technology transfer away for free or provide discounts for Arizona companies?

A: There are practical, legal and financial reasons why the universities do not give away technology or provide discounts.

In most cases, the value of intellectual property is in an exclusive license. If the universities give away technology to an Arizona business, they would in theory also have to provide it to Arizona competitors so no one would have an exclusive license. Few businesses will invest in developing technology if they don’t have an exclusive right to it. Rights become worthless if they are not protected, and there is no incentive for businesses to develop new technology. Discounts are not possible in a competitive technology transfer environment where maximum value for technology is the goal in order to enable its best chance for success. Discounting technology for one entity would require discounts for all, diminishing incentive for researchers and the value of university technology.

Legal and practical constraints also limit providing technology for free. For example, if technology was developed with federal money, the federal government retains the rights as do the inventors. If it was paid for by a private sponsor, they may have an interest in seeing the technology commercialized for revenue — and not provided to a competitor. In addition, giving away technology does not result in revenue to support the universities research and technology transfer missions.

Q: Where can I find the ABOR policy on technology transfer?

A: The ABOR technology transfer policy is available here.

Q: Where can I find statistics and metrics on the universities’ technology transfer operations?

A: University technology transfer statistics and metrics can be accessed through ABOR dashboards and the Annual Research Report.

Q: How does the Arizona Technology and Research Initiative Fund money support technology transfer?

A: Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF) dollars support university research. Some of these funds are used to support an intellectual property catalyst fund. The fund is used to take raw innovation to the next level, build a prototype, or advance data analysis of a proposal in preparation of the technology to be licensed. TRIF dollars are also used to directly support each university’s technology transfer operation. The annual TRIF report detailing the amount of funds expended may be viewed here.