One of the key roles of technology transfer departments is to bring new inventions closer to market. In many cases, this means helping university researchers develop go-to-market strategies for their research outputs and deliverables, then creating a startup, arranging licensing, or working with a venture fund.
With this said, I believe that promoting the sustainability of existing businesses, particularly those with an R&D focus, is also critical. Sharing university research outputs and deliverables can help companies in a number of different ways:
- Broaden horizons. Internal R&D groups tend to be limited to research with immediate, marketable applications. Partnering with university researchers gives companies access to blue-skies research, the kind of open-ended, far-ranging research that most companies don’t have the luxury of doing on their own. Access to this kind of research can expand existing business opportunities, or open the door for new ones.
- Technology trajectories. R&D groups are often focused on developing products on short-term timelines. But working with university researchers can give insights into new products that may be market-ready some 10 to 15 years in the future. This allows forward-thinking companies to avoid technological stagnation. They can remain competitive while truly planning ahead for their next generation of products.
- Disruptive technologies. University researchers work in a curiosity-driven environment. Not being bound by next year’s product launch or next quarter’s earnings report means researchers can take risks. They can uncover truly radical technologies with the potential to drive innovation and disrupt markets. And they can help companies sustain technology leadership far into the future.
Blue-skies research may not yield game-changing findings every time. But industries should cherish the opportunities university research has to offer.
Without innovation, business sustainability becomes challenging, if at all possible. This challenge can be answered by partnering with technology transfer departments.
They’re well positioned to link university research with industry, and lead companies to prosperity moving forward.
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