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Engineering Biology in Cambridge

Managing intellectual property and technology transfer inquiry launched by Commons Science and Technology Committee

The Science and Technology Committee launches its new inquiry into Managing intellectual property and technology transfer.

The Synthetic Biology SRI and programmes such as OpenPlant have been promoting open and open source technologies as a positive addition to intellectual property options across a wide range of technologies from software to hardware to biology. For example, we have co-organised Open Technology Week and worked with organisations like the BioBricks Foundation on an alternative form of contract for materials transfer agreements (MTAs) called the OpenMTA.

Members of the SRI might therefore be interested in responding to the the Science and Technology Committees new inquiry into managing intellectual property and technology transfer, including how well the current system works to balance commercial returns with public benefit, opportunities for SMEs and examples of best practices and novel IP strategies that might be adopted.

The Select Committee highlights that in addition to being centres of learning, universities have increasingly focused on commercialising their research outputs. Dame Ann Dowling's July 2015 Review of Business-University Research Collaborations commented that in universities "there is a tension between the desire to earn short-term income from their Intellectual Property and the need to deliver wider public benefit, and potentially greater long-term return on investment from this IP. The emphasis needs to shift towards the latter, and this must be reflected in Technology Transfer Office funding models and success metrics. … This area remains a major source of frustration for both academics and businesses."

Submissions for written evidence are now invited by 15 September 2016 on how well the TTO system works and what measures are needed to improve it. Submissions might address the following issues:

  • How the respective roles of universities and TTOs in commercialising research have developed over the last decade;
  • How well universities and TTOs balance objectives of protecting IP and encouraging public-benefit research, and whether TTOs’ and universities’ IP strategies effectively deliver such objectives in practice;
  • Any scope for individual universities/TTOs to adopt particular good practices and IP strategies from others:
  • Whether funding arrangements for research commercialisation by TTOs are adequate and whether they facilitate an appropriate balance of objectives and an appropriate balance between short-term and longer-term aims;
  • Whether SMEs and larger businesses are both given an equitable access to commercialisation opportunities; 
  • What measures universities, business leaders and Government should take to assist the commercialisation process, and to reach a common understanding of how the different stakeholders involved can engage in the process.

Further information and instructions for submissions can be found here.