All eyes on the incubator

Nieuws | de redactie
13 februari 2012 | Universities play an important role in the innovation processes, but how can they optimize the ‘hatching’ in their incubators? The League of European Research Universities (LERU) tries to answer this question.

In times of economic hardship, policy makers have sky highexpectations of university incubators, or Technology TransferOffices (TTO), but practical experience shows that the mereexistence of a TTO on the university premises, doesn’t necessarilygenerate hundreds of viable spin-offs every year.

Professor Koen Debackere (executive director of KU LeuvenResearch & Development) wrote a LERUpolicy paper on the subject of TTO’s. He claims that “strongand unambiguous university leadership support is critical to thecontinuous growth and development of a professional TTOoperation.”

Remote island

In the first part the paper Debackere focusses on the role andrelevance of the TTO in academia. It presents a model of threestage development, from TTOs as isolated islands of technologytransfer activity within the university (stage 1) to an inclusiveTTO operation operating across the research, teaching andinnovation dimensions of the knowledge triangle (stage 3).

In a second part of the paper the governance and organization ofthe TTO are analyzed. Governance aspects such as autonomy arecrucial for the TTO to develop its activities successfully.Debackere describes the cooperation as a ‘triple helix’: “we neednot just transactions between organizations, but innovationsjointly driven by organizations.”

Secret of success

Finally ten critical success factors (CSF) for an effective TTOoperation are identified. They focus on the degree of autonomy ofthe TTO from the university and the mandate a TTO might need tooperate in its region to build an effective spin-out operation, butalso on the need for a supportive external environment.

Other success factors set out the incentives and code of conductschemes TTOs can install for the academic community and giverecommendations for TTO staff, the internal organization of theoffice and the position of the TTO in the university. 

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