Technology transfer is the process of transferring new knowledge and innovations developed at the CSIR to third parties who can realise value from them by making them available to the market and society, for commercial gain and social good. Technology transfer presents an opportunity to improve SA’s industrial and commercial competitiveness, create employment, serve society and enhance quality of life.
Knowledge and technology can be transferred in many different ways, which are not mutually exclusive. For example:
- IP and/or know-how can be transferred in the course of providing consulting services;
- Technology may be transferred in the course of carrying out R&D contract work for a client, who pays to access the research results;
- Publication in peer-reviewed journals can disclose knowledge that others can use and build on, and conference presentations can serve a similar purpose;
- Skills and knowledge are transferred by the movement of staff to and from other organisations;
- Human capital development initiatives such as training programmes, courses, seminars and workshops equip people to use or master new technologies.
But for an R&D organisation like the CSIR, the term ‘technology transfer’ is most typically used in relation to the licensing of IP produced from CSIR research, which sees potentially useful research results transferred to third parties to develop them further and to make them available to larger markets for commercial and/or social benefit.
The preferred mechanism for facilitating the transfer of technology is licensing, which involves the granting of permission to a licensee to use CSR IP for a stated purpose, under defined conditions. The CSIR retains ownership over the IP concerned. The licensee may be an existing company, or new venture creation may take place. In the latter situation, the CSIR may establish a new wholly-owned company, or enter into a joint venture with one or more partners. Part of the licensing consideration could include an equity stake for the CSIR in the company concerned, in combination with or instead of license fees. Assignment is an alternative mechanism to licensing which may be used for technology transfer. This involves the selling of IP (i.e. ceding ownership), but wherever possible, the CSIR will engage in licensing as a preferred option.