Public organisations (universities, research centres) as well as private tech companies are crucial for driving R&D activities. But translating the outputs of those R&D activities into innovation has always been a challenge for organisations. If you are managing an R&D or innovation programme at your organisation, it is crucial that you consider instituting some basic technology transfer practices to create value from your research investments.

In the second instalment of the 'Tech Transfer and Innovation in the GCC' webinar series, our panel from Canada, Qatar and the UAE share their experiences and perspectives of how technology transfer differs among regional universities and colleges and discuss the challenges in moving research to market.

In this instalment our speakers consider:

  • How does the TTO support research, industry collaboration and commercialisation at the organisation?
  • Different organisations employ different models for technology transfer
  • How can an organisation increase the impact of their technology transfer activities and how is this measured?


Tamara El-Shibib: Good afternoon everyone. My name is Tamara El-Shibib. I am a senior patent and tech transfer consultant at Gowling based in Dubai. Thank you for joining our second session of the webinar series on technology transfer and innovation in the GCC. Before we start with the panel introductions, I would like to introduce the webinar series for those who are new to it. The purpose of the webinar series is to discuss different topics within the umbrella of technology transfer and innovation and the reason this is important is because innovation is at the heart of the national visions of the GCC countries. We have seen a lot of investment both public and private in driving innovation and in supporting local innovation and also attracting innovated start-ups and companies to the region. The sessions are organised as informal discussions with the aim of sharing knowledge and experiences in these areas and also demystifying certain concepts around technology transfer and innovation.

We also hope to raise awareness and support capacity building in these areas and identify potential opportunities for collaboration. For today's session, we are exploring different models for tech transfer, the challenges in taking research to market and how can we measure the impact of tech transfer activities.

We have a great panel for you today. There will be an opportunity for questions so if you have any please just type them into the Q&A chat and we will address those in the last ten minutes of the session. After the session, you will also be prompted to do a survey, it is a one minute survey and we would really appreciate it if you would fill that out so that we know what topics could be interesting for us to cover for you next time round. So with that, I am going to turn to the panellists. I am going to ask Marc, if you could just start off with an introduction to yourself and then we will go from there.

Dr Marc Nantel: Hi everyone thanks for joining us. My Name is Marc Nantel and I am the Vice President of Research and External Relations at Niagara College in Canada. My background is as a physicist and I have been doing research administration and technology transfer for I guess, 20 years or so.

Tamara: Thank you Marc. John?

John McEntire: Yeah, my name is John McEntire. I am the Director of Industry Development and Knowledge Transfer at Qatar Foundation and I have been there for nine years. My background is 32 years in the licensing and technology transfer business working at the University of Illinois for 12½ years at the Civic Northwest National Laboratory which is a department of energy laboratory in the United States for five years and then also doing licensing in Japan for five years.

Tamara: Thank you John. Dr Sami, you are next on my list.

Dr Sami Bashir: Thank you Tamara and thank you Gowling for the invitation and also the topic. I'm very glad really to be with you on this esteemed panel list as well. My name is Sami Bashir. I am the Director of Technology Management and Innovation, Khalifa University, which is in Abu-Dhabi. My background really I am a chemist by training and I used to work in industry for more than ten years before I changed my career to university research management and primarily technology transfer translation and research, research commercialisation. I worked at different universities in the United Kingdom but also in the Gulf region. I have been in KAUST before joining Khalifa University.

Tamara: Thank you Dr Sami and last but not least, Dr Mohamed.

Dr Mohamed Al Hemairy: Thank you Tamara for inviting me. I am Mohamed Al Hemairy, had 20 years' experience of research management and intellectual property. I work for University of Sharjah, Head of Technology Transfer Office, and before that I was 15 years in UAE university in Al Ain within the same role. During my career journey, I helped more than 250 inventors to file inventions in various technology areas and commercialise and officiate some successful licence agreements. I have background in software engineering from UK and have been, also done some training internship in Birmingham Science Park in the UK, Thank you.

Tamara: Great thank you all. So today's sessions is going to centre around these topics so what is the role of the technology transfer office? What are the sort of different models for tech transfer or knowledge transfer? What are the challenges experienced by the panel in sort of moving research to market? How can we improve tech transfer in the region? We know it is important. We know it needs to be done but sort of what are the gaps that we need to think about filling to try to improve the way it is done in the region and then how can we measure the impact of our activities as well? And so before we dive into the discussion, I always like to start the session sort of covering off the basic terminology so when we say intellectual property, we need intangible assets so that includes registered rights, so your patents, your copyright trademarks, design rights and then the unregistered rights which is basically your R&D assets, your knowhow, your data software, even I would say relationships, you know, exclusive relationships you might have with the assets as well and these are important because we know that a company's value is made up of their intangible assets today more so than ever than their physical financial assets.

Tech transfer, when we say tech transfer we mean basically the bridge between research and innovation so it is basically the process by which research is managed and transformed into products and services on the market that have a positive, social or economic impact. Innovation is actually the implementation of those ideas so the new ideas, the inventions, the solutions may be new business models, the implementation of that would be what we mean when we say innovation, and when we talk about tech transfer generally we are talking about this process so taking research moving the knowledge or the technology from the labs and then into sort of the private sector or industry and there is different ways in which knowledge is transferred and you can just as an example say publication is one way that knowledge gets out there and there are different ways that you can package knowledge and transfer it.

Obviously with more sort of valuable commercially valuable knowledge, you might want to protect that so that you can incentivise investment in taking it forward and then in other cases, you might want to publish it before somebody else puts a claim on it and sort of stops you from using it, so the different strategies are deployed for moving knowledge and each of them sometimes you can use more than one strategy and you would use them for different reasons but the goal ultimately is the same, is to get the knowledge out there and to create the maximum impact from it. So with that I am going to dive straight into the discussion and the first question for our panellists is how does your tech transfer office support research investor collaboration and commercialisation, and I am just going to turn to the first person my list and that is actually Dr Mohamed. How would you respond to that?

Mohamed: Thank you, Tamara, for the introduction and definitions that make it easy to skip that part. So the technology transfer office mainly do kind of multiple roles, basically we can categorise them into protecting the IP and finding the best ways and strategies to protect the IP and also how to derive and monetise this IP. So technology transfer is a long process and takes time and it's, you know, complex in most of the scenarios. It depends on the technology and industry as well but it is very interactive with different stakeholders and players starting from the academic, the university or R&D institute, management also with industry partners, national collaborators, licensees and so on. So there are different strategies to transfer the technologies from the academia and R&D to the market and convert it into something that can generate revenues or be valuable or be a product or service and so on. I think we are going to talk about these strategies later on, but this is like a big overview about technology transfer activities. Interacting with the researchers is a very important aspect because usually researchers like to work by themselves in the groups and they won't usually like to communicate with the external world so the technology transfer play[s] an essential role to build a bridge between academia and industry where this is the only way our, the researchers can monetise and can let the other world know about their research achievements which can be derived into tangible or into products, something that they can really monetise.

Tamara: And just out of curiosity I know you are running the tech transfer office at the University of Sharjah, how many researchers does that support?

Mohamed: Well, we support the whole university researchers. In general we had more than 750 researchers. Some of them are more active especially from the four medical schools, engineering college and also computing IT, business and economics, college of science etc, and some of them are less interactive because of the nature of their research work because not really like fit with the technology transfer activities or doesn't really turn into IP in terms of patents or trademarks or maybe copyright, but we are open and we always interact with all the university colleges and researchers and, you know, incentivise them to interact and involve with our office.

Tamara: And then Marc you're next on my list. How does your office interact with industry and the researchers?

Marc: Thank you, Tamara. Very differently. This webinar is called different models of technology transfer and so I can speak in general to the models of community colleges in Canada we are pretty much oriented in the same way but my office is somewhat representative. In the college world as opposed to the university world in Canada today, faculty the professors are not hired to do research. They are hired to teach and to do curriculum development and that type of stuff so it is not in their collective agreement, it is not in their contract to do research. In order for us to have them do research on a project, we need to release them from teaching and to backfill them, so this is a little bit of context that leads to the fact that there is no way expectation by the professor to keep the IP and therefore our intellectual property developed when we worked for the industry belongs to the college unless there is a contract signed to the contrary and that is what we do for every contract so every project we do has a company already involved in it from the beginning. This is not curiosity driven or knowledge generation driven companies come to us and they say I have a problem or I have an aspiration for a new product or a new process or a new service and we develop the best team, the best research team to work with them on this. We find the best faculty, the best students, our labs or whatever resource we have to support this project and at the end of the project we deliver the intellectual property to the company. It could be from a prototype, from a report, various knowhow and so the whole point of the technology transfer happens right at the end of the project. There is no protracted licensing negotiation there is rarely an expectation of to come back to the college. It all happens at the handoff if you want. We sometimes keep helping the company along the way if they need help or technology services and all that but essentially it is very different like that and the crux is in the choosing which companies and which problems we address that will decide how successful the technology transfer will be, it is very much in the choosing of the partner. Not so much the idea from a prof somewhere but which company is coming to us has a problem that is interesting that could lead to economic development, job creatioon, wealth generation, good learning from the students and all that stuff, so it is very different that way.

Tamara: Yeah, it is very market driven.

Marc: Yes.

Tamara: John, how does QF do things differently?

John: So I have been at QF for nine years and, you know, just like lots in the region, you know, the idea of intellectual property, the idea of innovation is still fairly new of course. It is getting, people are getting to understand a lot better but initially, nine years ago, we determined that we had to take a big lead in trying to educate not just our university and research institute people, but also the community at large and so we do a lot of educational activities and also collaboration type things, we have what's called the Al Khabeer programme which our office supports where we go out and give expert advice in regards to IP to start-up companies and other groups. We ultimately are actually managing intellectual property for the major hospital group in town which is the Hamad Medical Corporation and also Sidra Research which is a research hospital and a cooling plant and other things. But inside our QF family, is the Hamad Bin Khalifa - HBKU - University and that is where our three research institutes, one for bio, one for energy and environment and one for ICT, are housed. Then we also have partner universities inside QF that they are all focused on different areas and although there are eight partner universities, we handle the intellectual property for four of those so we are the major player in Qatar to handle this intellectual property and so we have our Q team meetings which is our intellectual property action committee and basically we make decisions together and that helps to solidify the innovation ecosystem and have people being more collaborative rather than of course the competitive edge is important but having collaborative competition actually makes it so that we ultimately are growing people to potentially licence things, so it is working with those entrepreneurs through the Al Khabeer programme, helping them understand intellectual property and ultimately some of those players will end up licensing our intellectual property.

Tamara: Do you have an idea roughly sort of how much of the research is sort of applied versus basic at QF?

John: So Tamara just to let everybody know, you used to be in our office and things have actually changed you know over the last five or six years, it is becoming more and more applied but there was a lot basic science from the beginning and that the applied stuff is getting more applied so percentage wise, I would say that maybe we are at 30%, that's 30/35% that's more applied and over time that has grown and the technology maturation has gotten better so we are able to transfer our more things than we were able to previously so.

Tamara: And roughly how many researchers are you sort of supporting?

John: So we are roughly supporting about 850 to 900 in the country. We handle everything that Qatar National Research Funds, Qatar Foundation has an ownership interest in so we jointly own those and our office actually manages those activities too, so when it comes to Qatar University which is of course a national university we share activities relating to that. We manage the intellectual property and they share in the costs on that.

Tamara: Okay, so basically any IP that QF owns is obviously managed under the tech transfer office and then for some entities as well, you are also sort of handling it on their behalf.

John: Yes, and that is on a cost basis for the larger groups and then we do have some pro bono things that we do for the entrepreneurial community.

Tamara: And Sami, I'm going to jump to you. Does KU have sort of a similar model in terms of tech transfers as the University of Georgia and QF or is it more focused on funding research that sort of market driven?

Sami: Actually the model we are following because I think that Khalifa University work under the umbrella of other universities especially in the UAE and as you said, Tamara, by the way in the beginning, in the Gulf region at large there are lots of attention about the innovation and what impact the universities and the academic researchers are doing and there are lots of investments going on at different levels so really the university we have, Khalifa University, it is all about how you can engage, engage, engage so really our model is agile in terms of that continuous engagement with professors, researchers, faculties, and different aspects that my colleagues just mentioned really, it is very critical if you want to look at that from, for us from three areas mainly. First of all capturing whatever coming out of the research, I mean we have lots of investments in to R&D coming from our own budget so we really need to work closely with the professors, figuring what is new and coming and this will hopefully lead to, kind of as John mentioned, protecting or conceptualising if there is any IP, if there is anything that is generated from that side. So you see us always engage with the professors from that angle. Another angle really which is important, it is all about awareness and like you are setting the tone in the first two slides because, rightly so, you know, these issues of IP innovation, obviously it means different things for different people. So I am glad that, I think you are indirectly telling us, look guys, don't go around and talk about different things... [laughter], just focus on those definitions which is really nice.

Tamara: They are for me too!

Samir: I agree with you, because awareness is very critical, you know, we are dealing with new ecosystems, here it's coming, is evolving, developing, and also don't forget we have many of our professors and researchers. They are really not coming from UAE. You know, we deal with over 70, and I'm sure in the in the other institutes, nationalities within in this, so everyone come with their own understanding, definition, different ecosystems means different things to different people. So really it is something we need to capitalise on if we understand and we get this awareness and this networking really happening. So you will find us always learning from them as we believe that we should as well share some sorts of things that happen so this is part of the awareness we find ourselves always. Especially when it comes to engagement with industries, you know. Industries they have different settings, academia with different backgrounds, so really you find us always really trying to marry those kind of alignment in whatever different ecosystems to help the streamlining of their inventions to invest in their application and so forth. Commercialisation, I have to tell you it is a challenging area. For us it is a very challenging area, not only because of the technology transfer. Really when you talk about making start-ups, when you are making a different thing and I see that that will come in the next slide, you are talking about the whole ecosystem and that you will find us also sometimes going that extra mile to try to introduce these new technologies in the form of a start-up. So later on I will tell you about some of the initiatives we have. So we have the Khalifa Innovation Centre which is a deep tech incubator really to try to help that kind of creating the business models for new technologies if they want to move to the start-up side of businesses. Licensing to industries as well, challenging. They are used to B2B which is business to business. We have big companies doing that, ready products, all this. You get into a big challenge when you start dealing with business to academia or business to research where you have early stage technologies that are supposed to be transferred to industry. So this is a little bit of areas. You find this as a tech transfer really working closely with inventors and industries as well to try to streamline the understanding of the definitions that you referred to in the beginning of this discussion.

Tamara: Do you feel that, sort of, the organisation understands the value of what you're bringing as a tech transfer office at this stage? Or is it still, at least for me, if I go back ten years I would say it was sort of quite new and there was a lot of education, a lot of sort of internal education to sort of get support from the higher ups to move things along and to support, sort of establishing tech transfer functions. Do you feel that at KU, your mission is well understood and valued and, you know, researchers come to you sort of happy or is there still, sort of, more education that needs to be done to sort of show them why it is important for them to be part of the process and how it can benefit them as well?

Sami: Great question. So I have to tell you really because I've been in the region as well more than ten years it wasn't like before, you know. Before you would want to go into the situation and prove the value of these activities within the university. What IP is doing and the researchers - what are you trying to commercialise, let me do my research. I have to tell you now this has changed. There is a great direction at the highest level, I think I am talking about UAE and I believe other countries as well, about show us innovation, especially the universities, you know. In fact we are really under pressure of showing successful stories on a daily basis and we are challenged continuously about that. So the educational part of the awareness for the management to tell them all this is important. I think the challenge comes of how it can be done and this is where every kind of sector thinks about it from a different angle and this still needs to be fleshed out and streamlined in a better - I would call it the intra-ecosystem, you know. Innovation ecosystem needs to be a little bit streamlined. I give you a good example. IP policies, when you start looking at it from... research enterprise part is different from academic enterprise. It is academic from finance and administration and then when you get a little bit of a convoluted mix-up, kind of, interest. Sometimes when you go into these details, unfortunately it delays either the moving of the innovation or it hampers some faculties. You know this kind of delays, sometimes you can face that. But, definitely the message is there, how it is being done I think it still needs to be matured and fleshed out in a better way.

Tamara: I agree and the surprising thing I found as well was that I was in Europe recently for a conference and I noticed there were a lot of people from tech transfer offices there and they have the same issues. You know, they are also trying to figure out how to do this and so we think that maybe some of these issues are unique to us in this region. I mean some of the issues might be unique to the region but generally just tech transfer has challenges and I think everyone is trying to figure out how to make it more efficient. So thank you for that. John, how about you in terms of KU? Do you feel that things have changed and so there is a lot more support for the function or where do things stand?

John: So, before I respond to that I like want to kind of echo what you were saying about your recent trip to Europe. So, in all the institutions that I have been in, when there is a change in hierarchy, a change in leadership and everything, there is also a flush of institutional knowledge that goes along with that. So you are always having to re-grow, re-train and get people on the same page again. So I think a lot of what we do requires a lot of consensus building constantly, okay, and it is really a matter of setting correct expectations. So I think a lot in this region, people think if you throw money at something that somehow, you know, you build it people will come and, you know, when you compare our economies in this regard to, you know, places like the US or the UK, Europe, Japan and everything, you know, the innovation ecosystems are very different, you know. And there are reasons for that because the economy is built of different types of things. So when you bring in those types of new tools to a region, you know, they are thinking that somehow maybe we can jump start things by just throwing more money at it. But there is a time factor that needs to happen, getting basic research into more applied activity, getting into prototypes and everything, so there needs to be funding along the way. I think for Qatar Foundation, through Qatar National Research Fund, a lot of activity has gone into the basic science side going into applied now for the last four years, and so that's been good but we need more on the technology development side and the licensing.

So, to answer your question in regards to, you know we're going through another, I've been here for the initial structuring of the office, a restructuring in 2016, a restructuring in 2018 and now we are going through another restructuring. So I think that kind of gives you a clue that people don't completely understand it as much as we would hope, but again I think it's because there's always a change in leadership and change in outside pressure. So, you know, when the ministries in our countries come into play, you know, they're expecting certain things and when it doesn't happen, you know, immediately then it makes it require a change that not necessarily coming from the top of the organisation but may be from the side of the top. So it's really, somehow we need to get to a point where we can set expectations appropriately and benchmark appropriately.

Tamara: And I know what you are talking about because I think I have experienced some of those restructuring as well. I don't know if it's, I don't think it's unique to QF as well, I think maybe across the region this happens. So, yeah, it is something that I think is one of the issues in the region. I am going to move onto the next topic which is sort of the different models in tech transfer. I know we have covered some of those already but I want to dive into discuss IP ownership a little bit because I know some of our listeners are either working at universities or working as sort of innovation managers in companies. They will be interested to know why is IP important. Why do they need to think about owning IP or do they need to think about owning IP, so I am going to turn the question round to each of you panellists and I'm going to start with you, Mohammed, and what is the policy at the University of Sharjah and is IP important. Is it important to own IP and if you do own IP, sort of, what are the conditions around not owning it or granting access to it or how do you manage that?

Mohammed: Yes, right. First of all we have to understand that most of our universities in the GCC and Mena region are young universities in young countries, so probably the innovation ecosystem which is like mature in the West and the UK and US and other countries are relatively new to our countries. So most of the universities has just recently in the last ten or 15 years start to focus on applied research where they can derive some tangible asset out of their research means like outreaching, industry partnership for commercialising activity. So when we start the, first of all set up the IP policy because of the lack of awareness about the IP importance within the, most of the academia environment we start to make it like as much attractive and incentivise the faculty to engage with us and to feel the importance of the IP. So the IP policy, either my previous university and current university was saying that the faculty member or the inventor either being a faculty or a student will be obtaining 50% of any revenues generated of his research and this is if you can notice that this is one of the highest, you know, revenue share between university and inventors worldwide.

The same policy applies to the students and faculty and even administration staff if they have come up with any IP discoveries and we're also now in recent years trying to focus more into the entrepreneurship skills where the inventors and after finding, you know, having these new discoveries, can, you know, transfer this into a small start-up that can, you know, build up in our innovation centre and also in the science park that we are building in the coming few years plus, you know, taking advantage of the existing incubators by the government or by the University of Sharjah and so on.

I think most of the universities in the region are following the same model more or less but, you know, this is like, was a key element in encouraging our faculty to at least start talking to us, you know, because in the beginning it was so difficult and there was, you know, for us we are some kind of aliens that come up from nowhere and start to chasing them to, you know, assist their research outcomes before they go to publication and hold them sometimes or maybe put them on hold until we, you know, tell them that this is something like patentable, this is something as a potential value etc. So that is, was the hardest mission, the IP awareness and also encourage them to engage with us.

Tamara: I mean, one of my questions was going to be how do you incentivise researchers by – I think 50% royalties, I think is, that answers my question. That's probably one of the highest rates I've heard as well. I know that back when I was at QF we had a similar sort of high rate as well and yet the idea behind that was, you know, we're not trying to make money here, we're trying to create new knowledge and, you know, drive innovation and so let's just, like let's put a high rate to incentivise them. I mean, the average rate I think in other universities is around maybe 33 to 38 per cent royalty return, so that is a high one.

Marc, I'm going to move onto you next. So I know that you mentioned that you don't own any of the IP and that it's industry that owns the IP and it's sort of like a contract research that happens. How, are there any challenges in managing that or is the IP completely sort of taken care of by industry and your professors or your researchers go off and sort of work on a project then come back and – does that cause any issues?

Marc: No, actually no issue at all. I'm sorry it can't be spicier than that. But we have two, so two sorts of researchers. Essentially there's a faculty that gets released from teaching to do research but also we have full-time paid researchers in our innovation centres. So at the Niagara College our innovation centres are on advanced manufacturing, agriculture, the environment, horticulture, that type of stuff. I have food and beverage and business and commercialisation aspects of the research. So each of these have, has a, you know, permanent staff that we pay through government grants to be there and available to do research at all times and it's in their contract that they don't own any of the IP either. Out of maybe a few thousand projects since I started 11 years ago at the college we kept the IP once and the reason is typically that when the company comes to us says 'I want to do a project, here's what I'd like to, you know, develop', and we have government money coming down. I always ask for every dollar of the government of Canada or the province of Ontario where we're located coming to the research, the company has to put at least one dollar. It will be cash and/or in kind, usually it's about 20% of their contribution in cash to 80% in kind and in kind can be time from their staff, it can be use of their laboratories, it could be the consumables in the project.

In any case that one time that company was a start-up, they had no cash and they didn't have quite the expertise that was needed to get the project going but it was such a cool project that I used my, I used my prerogative as the vice president to say 'we'll do the project anyway.' It was for a non-alcoholic beer. We had to develop a new non-alcoholic beer. We have a brewery at the college, we have a brewmaster programme and we developed a beer and we said to the company 'listen, because you're bringing nothing to the table essentially except for the market, we're going to develop it and we'll keep the IP and then we'll do a licensing agreement, and that's the one project where we did it. The beer ended up being sold across continental North America, it won major prizes at the US beer Championship several years in a row. I'm not sure it's still in production and it brought us a little bit of royalty but normally the company, there's no problem transferring the IP to them because they've already got skin in the game and frankly a company that's not able to put some amount of cash to unleash a major project to develop a new product for them would not have the cash to actually take it to the next step post prototype and towards commercialisation.

So I'm not interested in working with these companies because our government funding comes with the expectation that our metrics, our outcome are about job creation, economic development worth – you know, it's not about papers and it's not about the college licensing or anything like that. So I always have to keep my eye on the ball of what are the expectation of my funder, my funders, right? And it is for the company to take this and move it and again - you choose good partners, people whom you know who have the wherewithal and the backbone to commercialise after you've done with them and then it, you know, you're doing well, you know, that's where the trick is.

Tamara: Are there sort of situations where maybe the company is partnering with an international collaborator? Like would that, would that, would there be strings attached with the funding that comes through the government if the company is partnering with an international collaborator? Is there a requirement on the company then to make sure that they own the IP?

Marc: It hasn't been much of a problem for a couple of reasons. One, community colleges are very local. We have 150 across Canada and most of them are very much tied to their locality. Our innovation centres being in manufacturing, food and beverage and agriculture essentially, those are the economic parts of Niagara, the region of Canada where we are, near Niagara Falls, that are important. There's also tourism but we don't have an innovation centre in tourism. So most of the companies with which we work are relatively local. Sometimes they're province wide, sometimes they're Canada wide, and rarely are they big companies that are multi-nationals. We've done projects with multi-nationals but because we do give the IP it's not much of a problem.

Now in Ontario, the province where we are, there recently has been a bit of an ado, a bit of a kerfuffle with the government that wants the realisation of the benefits of the IP to be done in Ontario because they say too many times, universities generally but also colleges in some cases, Ontario funds research and then the benefit of the IP goes outside of our borders and that's been a bit of a problem and the government is establishing a commercialisation mandate if you want for each university and college in Ontario to say 'hey, at least try to make sure that the benefit of the IP accrues to the region, to the province.' Though most of my funding comes federally, so I don't particularly care. If some company in Vancouver, in another province, is the one that gets the benefit then I'm happy with that because my funding is federal, so...

Tamara: And you know what, that kind of sounds like, and I'm going to move to John next on this question, but it kind of sounds like what sort of QF had tried to set up as well. So for example if the funding was going to a local entitle then like QF wouldn't necessarily want to claim ownership and that as long as local entity was able to manage the IP and try to sort of try to have it commercialised in the region, and I think as we're talking about countries that are probably the size of your provinces, you know, they have to have this mindset that, you know, we're funding and it's very easy for this funding to sort of slip out of our borders.

So John, I'm going to come to you and my next question for you is, you know, is that model still in place and how is it working?

John: So, you know, in the last four years we've had quite a bit of success in licensing and creating start-ups and everything but we had a model where we were doing what is called 'research to start-ups' and working with QSTP which is the Qatar Science and Technology Park. They help us find international partners, these are serial entrepreneurs and then we bring them in and give them a roadshow of ten technologies and then they, at the end of this week after, you know, doing exercises of getting along with the researchers and, you know, getting with the IP office, getting with QSTP financial players, the investment group, then they come up with a quasi business plan or proposals in regards to, you know, how they would like to take the technology forward and then if there happens to be multiple people that want to do that then we choose. But we then work from there and licence the technologies and we've actually, you know, had some good success. You know, one of the companies actually folded just recently because of Covid, they were unable to do anything.

But the interesting thing here is that these have been successful and everything but we kind of got our hands slapped because the activities were not local. But what's happening right now is these companies that were from the United States or from France or wherever, they're now setting up offices in Doha to do things. So, you know, at the time if we were to focus on just what was available locally in the entrepreneurial sphere we wouldn't have been able to license these out, nor would we have the same success that we're having right now with these serial entrepreneurs in those particular spaces that they license to technology. But this is, also goes back to, you know, the lack of understanding on, you know, higher levels that you kind of have to prime the pump, okay, and once you prime the pump then the other things will come later. So we are now focusing more on the local players and I don't think we should give, should throw away, you know, the research, the start-up programme on the international game. I think we should actually allow more local and regional players to be involved with that activity now that it's proven itself. It's just, you know, trying to, you know, remould and rework and try and make it so that it's pleasing to those in the ministries and also in upper management.

Tamara: Yeah, and I think that takes us into sort of the challenges in sort of doing tech transfer in the region as well. How are you, how do you find sort of development or licensing partners? I've heard a lot of, I've had a lot of, even questions about that actually, I've had universities say, you know, we're building these large portfolios but we're struggling to find licensing partners, you know, because I think maybe this region is still sort of not as maybe mature as maybe other markets in terms of adopting new technology. How do you, how do you deal with that?

John: So we've had to create new policies and processes. You know, the 'research to start-up' programme is one of those and so that's actually, you know, having a wide reach of QSTP's international network, you know, bringing players in. Wasabi is an investment group that has a lot of players that could potentially, you know, play into that. Because of our activities in Al Khabeer and supporting these different local players we're now starting to recognise together that there are potential licensees in that group, okay. And we're also trying to make sure that there's, you know, collaborative research activities in the space and that's increasing more and more and so that type of activity is allowing us to get players that similar to what Marc is doing, you know, working with the industry players, it's actually that that helps find, you know, potential licensees in that space. Some of our research institutes like our Qatar Computational Research Institute, QCRI, which is where a lot of our licensed technology comes from, they've actually developed their technologies like Arabic translation transcription technology which is now in a company called Canary, that came out of Al-Jazeera using that for their videos and so all the videos were, you know, transcribed and translated using that technology so there was a lot of expertise that came from that. But that actually primed the community to be able to see things more.

Tamara: And Sami, I have a question for you. We mentioned earlier on that one of the issues we have actually is sort of getting people to understand why sort of tech transfer is important, at least now management understands that sort of just getting the general research community to understand it and support it is still sort of catching up. What would you say, how would you, how would you say is the right way to go about sort of developing sort of tech transfer capabilities if you like to support that? So what can we do to sort of support tech transfer and increase awareness of tech transfer if you like?

Sami: Yeah, I think this is a very I would say challenging question because, you know, not only to make... this is answering for the specific ecosystem at Khalifa University. I have my neighbour here Dr Mohammed, who I'm sure he will answer it differently. So the geographical ecosystem makes a difference but also the timing, the stage by which you are running your activities of tech transfer as well. So to be honest with you, to see the value of the tech transfer within the research enterprise and the impact that is generate. Now to do that I think one of the critical part that you discussed already which is really how you can be more engaging in capturing the new inventions, translating it into an intellectual property, and this is a different level really. But the aim of having the impact, now you're talking about commercialisation at the end of the day, you know? You're talking about products in the market, you are talking about new technologies in traditional industry, and I think one of the tactics that you need to think of is how to establish a stronger, I would call it translation and funding, proof of concepts, this kind of dynamics I think to be run within that side is very critical because most of the gap that we're facing is too early, research is going on and complete kind of lack of connection with the industry, so you need that part.

There is great success as well, Tamara, I have to tell you, you are in the region, you know, in commercialising through start-ups I have to tell you it is not typical to get this through as developed ecosystems where you have the industry, they just want to the IP and they don't want to do anything with you. They're able to fund it, they just need the idea. So here you need to get that transient, you know, entity which is a start-up able to do the proof of concept, the business context and possibly the application and they go to other. So really involvement and seeing a modern tech transfer engaging clause with incubators, accelerators and all this, I think is becoming critical at that part to show that impact. And yeah, the third part which is really the industry engagement, I think it has to be taken from early stage because this is the only way from the contractual level where the industry is engaging, you are figuring out how the IP can be translated or transferred to the industry. You know that open innovation thinking going on at that level, modelling, without causing a trouble, so your IP and all this. I think by engaging into this type of tactics, activities, and you become always brainstorming of how to evolve your processes and things, you start showing some results and kind of, you know, evidence that the tech transfer activities are really relevant in accelerating this commercialisation activities or translating university research into impact in a way.

Tamara: I get you, and then in terms of like maybe, like does the university use any sort of IP analytics to sort of help it focus on maybe ideas or research projects that might be more commercial. Is that something that the transfer office currently does or, you know, would assist sort of research projects with?

Sami: Absolutely. I think that you are talking about, so now most of the, one of the critical things, and this is us as tech transfer we like now to build on, most of the universities ranking is start including the impact metrics on it and also people now, big organisations, that they do the academic ranking, they look at what's your output in patents, what's your output into start-ups, what's your output into licensing and all this. Now this has to be managed in a way, you are talking about analytics and metrics and all kind of those things, but the other way it goes around. This is sometimes force us and we have that model as well, Tamara, where we for example look at that professor who is working a certain area, how can we capitalise into that platform of knowledge and rather than waiting for an invention or a patent come across, no, you become proactive, look at that technology and see - we're working in a very nice photonic fibre optics for example, a professor has a big research lab doing that. So these kind of guys who are getting funds and all that, I think you have to be more proactive in figuring out what they are doing and how you can take the output of that research, even if it's not IP or something, and link it with industries like Mubadala who are heavily investing in fibre optics with global foundries and those kind of... so this, this is as well some of the things, sometimes we need to look at it proactively.

Tamara: Yep, no, I agree with you there. I think that's the difference between sort of traditional tech transfer where you're sort of waiting for things to come through and then figuring out how to sort of, where to plug in, you know, there is all... versus, you know, being more proactive and the more sort of modern way of thinking where, you know, you want to sort of know early on in the process whether you are investing in something that has a chance and going all the way through.

Sami: Hundred per cent.

Tamara: So I'm sticking with the topic on sort of metrics, how do we measure the impact? I'm going to come to you, Mohamed. So how do you currently measure the impact of your activities within the university?

Mohamed: First of all I just want to comment on what Sami said about the challenges here in our region and I think most of the universities in the region are feeling the same, you know, the same challenges. Protecting IP as you know is a very expensive exercise and requires a lot of funding, so protect IP and maintain them as well, were, you know, in the past, you know, like university management or even the government did not really realise this as like a potential investment into the research part. Now the concept completely changed and now they are really understanding and focusing and encouraging all universities and put even, you know, some kind of KPIs and expectation of every research funding, especially government funding, to have a, you know, a valuable output with, you know, publication in highly ranked journals, we also had IP in terms of patents or trademarks and also establishing start-up and spin-out companies within the local communities which is very important if you want to move towards the, you know, a knowledge-based economy.

So we also have to realise that we are not in the industrial market, we are in the consumer market part of the world where we have lack of, you know, large industries built here in our region where they can be engaged proactively with the researchers and R&D institutes and fund them from the idea to the product. This is very important so that is one of the largest challenges, that we need to find other source of funding, and it depends either on government funding or trying to, you know, follow up something within the university existing resource.

So back in, back to the, your question about the, you know, how to, you know, evaluate the impact of the research. There are different ways before, you know, our universities start to focus more into the research oriented university. Now they are, you know, actually hiring researchers. There are faculty who have very high research portfolio that include at least one patent in their CV which, you know, make our life and mission easier because these people come already in knowledge about what is IP and its value and what we are expecting from them. So they merely do three type of task, teaching of course and also community service and mostly is the research activity and now the major weight when we're recruiting any faculty member is their achievement in the research.

So in the technology transfer office we are talented because it is kind of new, IP is only three years old. We are focused on increasing our number of five patents, enlarging our portfolio, focusing more on the research, applied research where it can be, have high probability to turn into business or start-up or licensed image franchise etc. And then we have a plan by next year to have two more KPIs, one of them would be the number of granted and successful patents and the second one is the number of IP licensing and also number of start-ups.

Tamara: Okay, I get you, so you're still quite early on in the process but I guess you will have sort of the same metrics I guess most universities have in terms of, you know, how many licences have gone out. I have, we a couple of questions left and we have a couple of questions from the attendees. I'm going to quickly run through those. Okay, so the first question I can see here is, I think this one is going to come to you, John. Do commercialisation activities for research institutions generate real income to the institution either through spin-outs or licensing?

John: Yeah, so when we do a start-up we usually take an equity stake of, you know, between five to seven, eight per cent up front depending on the technology and the market, and then we'll take... and that's, that's in lieu of cash. We don't want to take cash out of the pockets of the entrepreneurs because they need to do development. And then we'll have a running royalty, you know, based on what the market would bear and what would be logical for that space. So in regards to the start-ups, and then they'll ultimately be covering the cost of the IP, but that's put out, you know, three to five years, and so there's a lot of coddling there, if you will, just trying to make sure that they can succeed. However we do have licences to larger companies. There's a UK broadcaster that we've licensed to which generated $40,000. We have other players throughout the world, you know, and there's supposed to be money coming through and the royalties haven't really started yet.

But you know, we probably generated around $200,000 so far, okay, in actual cash, okay? And just to let you know our, as what Dr Mohamed was talking about with his policy, our revenue sharing policy is also incentivising but the first 500,000 rial, so about US$165,000 is, 80% goes to the researchers and then it tiers down to 60% and 40% and 20% over time and over up to 10 million rials' worth. But the reason for the $165,000 category there is that when you look at tech transfer in North America, the average payout, okay, for a technology, and this is the total payout for a technology to an inventor, is about $165,000. So we were trying to incentivise them that way upfront, okay, and then try and make sure that the researchers group and the college or the research institute and then QF also share in that and so we're working on policy right now to handle that type of thing.

But that's what's happened and so we have... and there's sometimes when revenue comes in that it'll be determined that it will go just to the research institute itself to further activities in everything. But we have had some money, it's not, you know, incredible, but it is something that's helping the bottom line and there is a push for, you know, trying to bring in new revenue streams and our activities in supporting other organisations with their intellectual property, we actually get paid for our services, you know, cost recovery on the patent side activities and then for our services they get paid for too, so that's another way we're doing revenue generation which then supports our office too.

Tamara: Yep, and I think it's important as well to recognise that like with tech transfer offices they act as more of a facilitator versus sort of the profit generating entities. I think, you know, they're facilitating something that has sort of a greater impact down the line and that's why, you know, they're usually seen as more of a cost centre and actually it's great if you can bring revenue back in but, you know, ultimately that's not their mission. Their mission is to sort of transfer their knowledge and then... so that it can have an impact further down the road.

John: Yeah, I think of it as like priming the pump. You gotta get the pump going and that pump is going to pump things out ten years later, 15 years later, much greater than what's coming out right now.

Tamara: Exactly, that's a great way of putting it. There's another question here, it says 'is there a global database that has the most comprehensive information of the technologies that have been licensed considering that licence deals are usually confidential?'

John: I would say that your best bet in getting information is from AUTM which is Association of University Technology Managers in the United States, and you know, so United States, Canada, they're all around the world. But they have the largest database and then Licensing Executive Society also has things in regards to deals. So you'll get a lot of benchmarking information from those two sources.

Tamara: Yeah, and I think the European equivalent of AUTM is ASTP, Association of Science Technology Professionals.

John: Yes.

Tamara: They'll also have a lot of this information.

John: Absolutely.

Tamara: So I think that concludes – I'm sorry I've gone over by five minutes – that concludes the session. I want to thank all the panellists for participating, I really appreciate your time. I also want to thank the attendees. If you have any further questions please feel free to drop us an email, we'll make sure that gets answered. There'll also be a survey that pops up after this ends, I would really love if you could just spend one minute answering that. And thank you, yeah, thank you for the session, thank you all.

Marc: It was a pleasure, thanks so much for inviting us.

Tamara: Thank you, take care of yourself.

John: Thank you everybody.

Mohammed: Bye

Sami: Thank you, Tamara.

Tamara: Thank you, bye.

Sami: See you on the next session.

Tamara: Bye.

Below are some of the key takeaways shared by the panellists:

  • Technology transfer is not an overnight process - It can take years for a university to commercialise new technology and managing expectations of stakeholders is important.
  • The return on investment is generally slow - Technology transfer offices are facilitators, they are not profit generating centres. The return on investment is long-term and if successful their activities downstream lead to social and economic impact through the formation of new companies, products and services, job creation, improved standard of living, GDP contribution, etc.
  • Universities need to have the right balance of basic research and applied research - Basic research (or explorative research) rarely generates commercial IP. Applied research on the other hand is market driven. Having the right mix of both is essential for knowledge creation and dissemination and also important for managing expectations for technology transfer.
  • Technology licensing everywhere is a challenge - Universities find it easier to license new technology to a startup than an established company because companies don't have the processes to test and adopt new technology and ensure product fit. It is easier to acquire a startup than a new technology. Governments need to consider incentives for companies to work with universities to license in IP.
  • Incentivising researchers to invent and participate in the tech transfer process – universities typically share royalties from IP commercialisation with the inventors to incentivise them to support technology transfer. The average royalty share for inventors is between 33-38% of net revenue with some institutions offering up to 50% to attract and retain the best in the field.
  • Industry engagement is key to driving technology transfer: consider creating knowledge clusters of universities, research centres, and companies focused on particular sectors. Where industry invests in the research, it leads to 'market pull' inventions and more commercialisable IP.
  • IP analytics can help focus research on more attractive application areas - IP analytics can reveal what the technology trends are in a given sector, who are the key IP owners, your potential partners or competitors, complementary IP, and other information. Instituting a program where the analysis is carried out early (through interns, students) can avoid wasting resources on IP with low commercial potential.
  • IP ownership isn't the goal - Owning IP that you can't commercialise has zero impact for the university. Consider the wider mission of the university and how different models of ownership may have stronger impact.
  • How do we measure impact of tech transfer activities? Universities typically track the number of inventions disclosed, patents filed and granted, licenses negotiated and revenue generated. Two associations - AUTM (US) and ASTP (EU) – are widely recognised for promoting technology transfer and have developed metrics for measuring knowledge transfer.

If you have any comments or would like to discuss further, please reach out to Tamara El-Shibib on


  • Tamara El-Shibib: Senior partner and tech transfer consultant at Gowling WLG
  • Dr Marc Nantel: VP Research and External Relations, Niagara College, Canada
  • John McEntire: Director of Industry Development and Knowledge Transfer, Qatar Foundation, Qatar
  • Dr Mohamed Al Hemairy: Head of TTO, University of Sharjah, UAE
  • Dr Sami Bashir, Director: Technology Management and Innovation, Khalifa University, UAE

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