Bridging the Gap between Innovation and Implementation

In a world buzzing with technological advancements, it’s crucial to have a bridge connecting groundbreaking research with real-world applications. KAUST’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO), a dynamic hub that thrives on bringing ideas to life and making a tangible impact. With an emphasis on collaboration and engagement, KAUST TTO not only supports internal stakeholders like academics and students but also actively engages with external stakeholders to foster innovation and drive progress.

Within the KAUST community, TTO plays a vital role in capturing, managing, and commercializing intellectual property assets generated by KAUST academics and their teams. Whenever an “Ah ha” moment strikes and an academic believes they have stumbled upon an invention, they submit an Invention Disclosure Form to TTO. This form outlines the invention’s technical details, ensuring a clear understanding of its potential. The Discovery Team, working alongside external lawyers and the academic, then assesses if the invention can be protected and determines the best route to safeguard the intellectual property. All this valuable information finds a home in Sophia, KAUST’s knowledge management software system. Since 2009, Sophia has served as a repository of intellectual property assets generated by KAUST’s brilliant minds, including research scientists, post-docs, PhD and Masters students.

TTO’s impact extends far beyond the confines of KAUST’s academic community. The Deployment team, TTO’s external-facing arm, actively collaborates with local and international companies. Under a non-disclosure agreement, TTO engages with these companies to understand their specific needs, challenges, and technological gaps. Armed with this knowledge, TTO dives into the vast Sophia database, searching for relevant technologies that can support these companies’ requirements. A curated list of potential technologies is then presented to the companies for review, initiating a fascinating journey of exploration and collaboration.Once a company expresses interest in a technology, TTO facilitates an introduction between the inventors and the company. This crucial step allows the company to delve deeper into the technology readiness level (TRL) of the innovation. If the company remains intrigued, they may decide to evaluate the technology at their own site to ascertain its compatibility with their needs.

In the spirit of collaboration, TTO offers companies free access to KAUST’s technologies for evaluation purposes, usually for a period of up to six months. During this time, the company assesses the technology’s potential and determines whether it aligns with their commercial needs, be it enhancing an existing product or service or developing something entirely new. If the company concludes that the KAUST technology can indeed add value to their organization, they exercise their option.

Exercising the option signals the company’s confidence in the technology and opens the door to negotiations between the company and TTO’s Deployment team. Together, they work towards reaching mutually beneficial terms for a commercial license, setting the stage for a transformative partnership.

In some cases, the initial conversation between the company and the academic reveals that further development is necessary to increase the technology’s TRL. TTO, the academic, and the company join forces to craft an application for KAUST’s IMPACT funds. These funds are designed to provide financial support for activities aimed at raising the TRL of the technology, reducing risk, and enabling its seamless integration into the company’s operations. TTO’s Development team oversees the application process and project management, ensuring the efficient allocation of the granted funds. As the project progresses, TTO keeps the company updated on milestones and progress. By the project’s conclusion, if all objectives are met, the company gains confidence in the technology and engages in discussions with the Deployment team to explore commercial licensing options.

Furthermore, TTO’s Deployment team actively supports the commercialization of projects funded by the IMPACT funds. Through leveraging their extensive contacts, networks, and thorough desk-based research, the team identifies potential partners for licensing. These partners could be organizations that align with the project’s objectives and possess the necessary capabilities for successful implementation. The Deployment team initiates contact with these potential partners to gauge their interest in licensing the technology. Once a suitable partner is found, the Deployment team takes charge of negotiating the terms of a commercial license, paving the way for a fruitful collaboration.

Apart from engaging with companies, KAUST TTO extends its expertise to external stakeholders through consultancy services. Their skilled international team collaborates with KSA companies, universities, ministries, royal commissions, financial authorities, and PIF entities to support the realization of Vision 2030 objectives. Whether it’s supporting KSA universities in achieving Ministry of Education priorities in technology transfer and innovation or assisting ministries in policy development and technology scouting, TTO is at the forefront of driving progress. They have also deployed pilot plants in collaboration with royal commissions, aiding in the practical implementation of technology. Financial institutions seeking solutions to meet their countries’ needs and challenges can benefit from TTO’s expertise in deploying mature KAUST technologies to member countries. Additionally, TTO actively engages with PIF entities, participating in solution centers and undertaking consulting projects that pave the way for innovation.

With their tireless efforts and unwavering commitment, KAUST’s Technology Transfer Office is a vital catalyst for transforming ideas into reality. By connecting internal and external stakeholders, TTO paves the way for groundbreaking innovations to make a significant impact on industries, communities, and beyond.