Last month we attended the Netval Summer conference held at the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) in Rome. This conference was organised by Netval, the Italian Network for the Valorisation of Research. The conference focus was Creating Value from Research: The Evolving Role of Knowledge Transfer. This year was the first time the Netval Summer Conference was entirely conducted in English to embrace an international audience with attendees from all over the world including UK, Ecuador, Japan, Iran, and many European countries.
After an engaging opening session led by Netval President Andrea Piccaluga, the conference format was set with lectures, panel discussions and a healthy flow of audience Q&A. Some of our highlights included the session by Ernesto Ciorra from ENEL, who demonstrated the importance of fresh perspectives and how susceptible we are to pattern bias. Also, Paul Van Dun spoke about the lessons which can be learnt from the successful knowledge transfer office at KU Leuven.
It was humbling to see many Technology Transfer Office speaking openly about the challenges that they face. These challenges are common within Italy and beyond and are present irrespective of the size of the technology transfer office. The main challenges mentioned were:
· The challenge to spend time proactively to identify inventions
· The challenge deciding which inventions to patent
· The challenge of negotiating the right licensing deal
Many of the sessions provided suggestions on how these hurdles could be overcome. These suggestions included:
· Elevating the technology transfer office to a more prominent position in the university infrastructure
· Proof of Concept funding that addresses the valley of death
· Holding training programmes to create a technology transfer culture and mindset (to all levels: students, PhD, post-docs and professors)
· Spending time on marketing efforts
· Recognising the value of unpatented biological materials