By: Mia Björkil
Throughout Europe, the number of individuals working professionally with knowledge and technology transfer is growing. However, in Sweden tech transfer professionals are not yet recognized as a profession. This is something that the new Swedish Network for Innovation and Technology Transfer Support, SNITTS, intends to change. SNITTS, a nonprofit organization, offers a platform for technology transfer professionals to share experiences and improve competence.
Many continue to associate innovation with brilliant individuals working largely in isolation from the external world: the da Vinci paradigm. Indeed, von Hippel’s book Democratizing Innovation could be interpreted as following this perspective. Von Hippel would argue that a dedicated mounatineer, for example, will not find exactly the equipment he or she wants on the market. Therefore he or she will innovate to get just the right equipment. The innovation process, according to von Hippel, is often assumed to take place in someone’s garage workshop.
The technology transfer structures of universities and other public research organizations are different across Europe and in Sweden. And in many cases, technology transfer in Sweden is inefficient
Sweden is very good at creating spin-off companies but less successful at making them sustainable
– We are very good at creating spin-off companies, but much less successful at rendering them sustainable and licensing is rarely exploited. Also, segregation in e.g. culture and maturity, and special laws further complicate the technology transfer process, says Henric Rhedin, Chalmers Industrial Technology. Rhedin and Per-Olof Hegg, LU Innovation at Lund University, initiated SNITTS, the Swedish Network for Innovation and Technology Transfer Support.
In the European countries that are leading in the area of technology transfer there are national technology transfer networks and good relations between academia, public research organizations and industry. These networks are defining the profession and contributing to increasing competence substantially.
In many cases, technology transfer in Sweden is inefficient
– SNITTS was created with the financial help from VINNOVA (the Swedish Government Agency for Innovation Systems) in a bid to catch up in technology transfer, says Åsa Larsson with great enthusiasm. Åsa Larsson is the recently appointed Director at SNITTS.
Larsson went on to say that: “As a not-for-profit forum, SNITTS offers a platform for technology transfer professionals to share experiences and improve competence. We also intend to increase international collaboration and facilitate good practice, carry out policy work and support the members in developing their skills in technology transfer and innovation assignments.”
Shaping a future profession
SNITTS will work to create, profile and protect the professional roles of individuals working in knowledge and technology transfer and exchange in Sweden. SNITTS will provide information, identity, ideology and insight within the knowledge and technology transfer and exchange area. Examples of that are education and training of members and participating in national and international networks.
Networks as facilitators
According to Per-Olof Hegg, Sweden needs to strengthen its technology transfer efforts in order to achieve the best utilization of its R&D results.
-Silicon Valley, Cambridge, and other successful regions are all based on the same feature; well working professional networks. Networks build collaboration, which in turn encourages growth by attracting more organizations and companies to cooperate, which builds even more growth.
Per-Olof Hegg also believes there is a need for a forum that would bring together individuals involved in technology transfer activities in various sectors. And that it is essential that competence within the profession should be top level in order to provide sustainable regional, national and international growth.
-This is what Sweden needs, and that is what SNITTS can facilitate, says Per-Olof Hegg.
Special Interest Groups
SNITTS supports knowledge and technology transfer among individuals in all areas and organizations throughout Sweden. Based on the different specialties and backgrounds of its members SNITTS is very far reaching. This means that the members can establish special interest groups (SIG) to work on the questions or subjects that are close to their hearts.
Three Special Interest Groups have been established so far: SIG Legal for Academic Lawyers who work on commercialization, SIG Technology Transfer for individuals working professionally in Technology Transfer Offices and SIG Executive, which is a group for managers faced working with technology transfer strategies and dealing with the challenges involved. The three SIGs held their first meetings at the autumn SNITTS conference, held at Uppsala University on 11 November 2009.
The inaugural SNITTS event was held in May, and was attended by more than 80 participants from university technology transfer offices, incubators, research institutes and innovation managers and speakers from leading international technology transfer associations and networks. At this event, there was discussion devoted to finding out what participants hoped for from SNITTS; this resulted in a conference and a course.
The training course in the fundamentals of technology transfer, included sessions on how to evaluate technology transfer opportunities, when licensing is and is not appropriate, strategies to manage intellectual property, marketing and sales. Such courses should be offered on a regular basis and be open to anybody working with or requiring an understanding of technology transfer. This could include government and industry employees as well as people working in universities and public research institutes.
Activities planned for spring 2010
- An in depth course on licensing covering the licensing process, agreements, problems and opportunities. The course will be open to anyone working or interested in working on licensing. It will be held on 10-11 March 2010.
- Study trip to Boston, MA to provide an overview of the Boston area innovation system. It will include a visit to the MIT technology transfer office, an incubator, a research institute and a large company that collaborates with the university. The trip is planned for 12-16 April 2010.
- A spring conference to be held on 11 March 2010 which will provide an opportunity for exchanges of experience, for seminars with interesting and inspired speakers, and will also provide another occasion for the special interest groups to meet.
More than 100 members…
SNITTS has over a hundred members interested in building their knowledge, networks and professions. SNITTS strives to increase international collaboration and communication and to promote technology transfer activities.
Please visit www.snitts.se for more information.