“Now it is generally recognised that a university has not two missions but three: education, research and transfer of knowledge,” says Rik Torfs, Rector of KU Leuven.
The leading research universities around the world are powerful engines of innovation. The most successful build valuable royalty streams, collaborating and consulting with industry to develop products, registering and licensing patents, and forming spin-offs.
Much of that income is channelled back to researchers, creating a virtuous circle. At the same time, the universities that succeed at technology transfer contribute tangible benefits to society by stimulating innovation and economic growth.
Building a successful technology transfer operation, however, requires significant investment. It also requires an appreciation that it takes time to build expertise and relationships, and for the benefits to flow. Universities that rush to create technology transfer offices without the proper structures, funding and long-term commitment will be disappointed.
KU Leuven’s technology transfer office, Leuven Research and Development, founded in 1972, is one of Europe’s oldest.
Today, it ranks among the world’s most productive. Between 2005 and 2014, industry contracts, licensing and patents generated nearly €1.4 billion in revenue for the university. The university has nurtured and taken a stake in 105 spin-outs, which have raised €760 million in external capital over the past decade. There have been seven initial public offerings. Eighty-seven spin-outs are still active, employing some 4,200 people.
This analysis of what makes Leuven Research and Development so successful was commissioned by the Medical University of Warsaw, which aims to form its own technology transfer office.
The report builds on interviews with senior university officials and Leuven Research and Development management, technology transfer professionals and a medical technology entrepreneur, to highlight the lessons learned by KU Leuven over more than four decades and set down guidelines for successfully launching a university technology transfer office today.
Access the full report here.