Q: How does the CSIR view technology transfer? 

A: It is the process of converting scientific findings from research laboratories into useful products or services by another party. This process may also include converting community innovation to scientific findings (i.e. indigenous knowledge). We see technology transfer as a key mechanism for the CSIR to contribute to improving the quality of life of South Africans.

Q: What are typical technology transfer processes?

A: These include the invention / technology disclosure process, protecting the invention / technology (by e.g. patents and trademarks), then publication of scientific research and licensing the rights to inventions / technologies to industry for commercial or social good development.

Q: How does the CSIR measure the success of technology transfer?

A: The CSIR’s measures of technology transfer success include the the number of license agreements executed, new companies formed, revenues from license fees, royalties and cash from equity investments paid, number of technology demonstrators and patents filed (as pipeline indicators) and the number of products and services successfully introduced to the market. Success is also demonstrated by the impact that the products and services have on quality of life.

Others include the ability to retain entrepreneurial employees, attract outstanding researchers, contribute to the institutional reputation for innovation, increase and expand our research programme through interaction with the private sector and enhance our reputation for providing highly trained researchers for the industrial work force.

Q: What are the benefits of technology transfer?

A: There is a growing recognition within research institutions, academia and industry that technology transfer efforts afford significant opportunities to many communities. For a research institution such as the CSIR, technology transfer gives the research community the opportunity to make a positive impact on the marketplace, and to have a socio-economic impact. For the industrial community, technology transfer gives the private, for-profit sector the means to tap into significant new discoveries made by research laboratories to improve competitiveness. For the public at large, technology transfer provides the opportunity to benefit from extraordinary new technological advances being made by the brightest minds.

Q: What is the role of CSIR researchers in the technology transfer process?

A: CSIR researchers are essential to the process of technology transfer.  Most importantly, as inventors or key creators they are the source of new technologies.  Inventors / key creators possess key technical know-how which is required for the drafting of patent specifications, defending a patent in the course of patent prosecution or infringement actions, marketing technologies and assisting licensees with implementation.  The chances of successful technology transfer diminish significantly without the participation of key inventors to champion their technologies.

Researchers therefore play a role by:

  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in their field to ensure that their work is new and relevant
  • Keeping proper records of all R&D leading up to the development of new technologies
  • Disclosing their inventions and technologies timeously so that they can be evaluated, and a strategy formulated for their protection and transfer (note that researchers are obligated to disclose under CSIR policy and by law)
  • Refraining from publishing or discussing with outside parties inventive subject matter before an invention has been evaluated and a decision taken about how it ought to be protected
  • Considering the possible different applications of their technologies
  • Providing all necessary technical information in the course of the patent prosecution process
  • Suggesting potential licensees and marketing leads for the technology

In some cases, researchers might wish to play a role in the further development and commercialisation of their technology, either by providing technical advice and expertise to licensees or by getting involved in spinning out a new company for commercialising their technology. This is always welcomed.

Q: How do CSIR researchers benefit from participating in technology transfer activities?

A: Researchers benefit through sharing in the proceeds received by the CSIR from successful technology transfer. Further benefits include:

  • Seeing the fruits of their R&D making an impact in society
  • Achieving recognition
  • Attracting R&D funding

Q: Should a technology be licensed exclusively or non-exclusively? 

A: A key decision is whether to license a technology on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.  Where technology is licensed at an early (embryonic) stage, requiring further investment from a licensee to develop a market-ready product (which is frequently the case with CSIR technologies), exclusive rights might be required to induce the licensee to make the necessary investment in the knowledge, ensuring that it has some protection from competitors.   Nonetheless, where feasible, non-exclusive licensing is promoted as a preferred option (which might typically be in the case of a ‘ready-to-use’ or ‘off-the-shelf’ technology), as this can facilitate wider use of the technology.  At the CSIR, we assess which mechanism is likely to be more effective in bringing the technology to market and which will best promote the use of the technology in the public interest, on a case-by-case basis.  Where exclusive licenses are granted, this is generally on the condition that the licensee undertakes to practise the licensed invention diligently, encouraged through the inclusion of contractual terms dealing, for example, with minimum payments, loss of exclusivity and achievement of milestones. By delineating specific fields of use or territories in an exclusive license agreement, we are also able to increase the licensing opportunities overall.


Q: What are the typical terms and conditions of a CSIR licence? 

A: The CSIR Commercialisation Framework serves as a guideline on how we prefer to commercialise. However, every single transaction / deal is different and the terms and conditions will vary depending on the technology being licensed. You are welcome to contact us to discuss specific opportunities in more detail.

Q: What financial return does the CSIR expect from a licensee? 

A: The CSIR typically negotiates an upfront licence fee, milestone payments and royalties. Each deal is structured and negotiated for the particular opportunity.

Q: What is the process to obtain a licence for CSIR technologies

A: A company or entrepreneur who is interested in licensing a CSIR technology should contact the CSIR Licensing & Ventures office, or the relevant R&D Outcomes Manager in the unit of interest.  We will then be able to provide the potential licensee with information about the technology; where necessary under a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Once it has been established that a licensing agreement could be of mutual benefit to both parties, licence negotiations will begin in earnest – the first milestone being a non-binding term sheet.

A further evaluation period may be required by one or both parties – due diligence of the potential licensee by the CSIR; or an evaluation of the technology by the potential licensee for a set period of time for the potential licensee to determine its viability and value to the company. The CSIR may charge a fee for granting the company the right to exercise their option to license the technology after expiry of the option period.

The CSIR has to obtain the necessary internal approvals at Executive level before a licence agreement can be signed and executed.


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