IRAP pushes for national tech transfer strategy and expansion of FPTT mandate
June 13, 2001
The six-year old Federal Partners in Technology Transfer (FPTT) consortium is being tagged as a potential contender to head up a national network of technology transfer facilities to be established across the country, linking federal laboratories to other players in the innovation system. The idea was floated May 30 at FPTT’s national conference and awards banquet in Aylmer PQ by Margo Montgomery, DG Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). She issued the challenge in closing remarks that also called for the creation of a national technology transfer strategy and outlined the key elements such a strategy should include.
FPTT represents all the major federal science-based departments and agencies (SBDAs) and has been gaining influence and visibility since being formed in 1995 from the Interdepartmental Group on Intellectual Property Management, which in turn was created following the 1989 demise of the ill-fated Canadian Patent and Development Ltd. FPTT strings together the SBDAs technology transfer offices, ranging in size from the major intellectual property (IP) office of the National Research Council (NRC) to one- and two-person operations.
“FPTT’s effective work practices are recognized nationally and internationally and as a result its 15 member partners are positioned as leaders of technology transfer and IP management,” says Montgomery. “By expanding its current mandate, FPTT could be the instrument to develop and coordinate a national strategy for IP management and technology transfer, strengthening the horizontal linkages among public sector research organizations, industry — especially small industry — and other players in the Canadian innovation system.”
Montgomery’s challenge to the FPTT to reformulate itself as a major tech transfer and IP management operation received largely positive response from delegates, although some cautioned that the consortium should learn to walk before it runs.
“First we should foster closer linkages with university tech transfer offices and we need to fund those strategic links,” says one senior federal official. “Perhaps we should also include a training component like WestLink (Network Innovation Ltd, R$, May 28/01), but if we want to build strong linkages across federal laboratories, this may do it. We need to get buy-in from both the science and policy ADMs.”
Enhancing FPTT’s mandate to include responsibility for a wider range of commercialization activities would require new funding, but the proposal comes at an opportune time. The federal government has been seriously examining what it can do in the area of commercialization in relation to the upcoming Innovation White Paper, and has already entertained several proposals.
PROPOSALS FORWARDED FOR WHITE PAPER CONSIDERATION
Another federal official says the FPTT proposal is still in the early stages of development and was not included in IRAP’s contribution to the White Paper, although “technology transfer and industrial innovation are a big part of what the White Paper should be addressing”. Some of proposals contained in IRAP’s contribution to the White Paper were also apparently included in Montgomery’s address to FPTT. They include:
- Incentives for promoting an entrepreneurial culture and encouraging exchange of practices in government
- Changes to the financial administration act and government procurement policies
- Dedicated resources for technology transfer activities
- Dedicated resources for developing management capacity
- Collaborative funding mechanisms to support tech transfer to receptor firms
- National network of community-based tech transfer and incubation facilities
- Increase creation of spin-off firms from public sector labs, hospitals, and private sector firms
- Strengthen links to international technology alliances and financing.
“We must pick up the pace and increase the rate in which public sector research and knowledge is successfully transferred and commercialized by industry,” says Montgomery. “A coordinated effort with dedicated funding is needed to link our IP assets from hospitals, academia, industry and government. In short, a national technology transfer strategy is required to combine important resources to support and promote the exploitation of our industries, especially small- and medium-sized enterprise, with appropriate public sector research, technologies and know-how.”
IRAP has completed a new strategic plan which Montgomery will be presenting to the NRC board of governors this month.