The Czech science has come up with a number of discoveries and inventions. Unfortunately, approximately 90% of them never put into practice. In most cases, there is a lack of funds and, above all, capable partners who can successfully commercialize development and invention. Patenting an invention is often just an imaginary starting line for a very long race for success. That is why a technology transfer is so important.
"The result of scientific research at universities or research institutes is often the discovery of a new natural or artificial mechanism, a new phenomenon or a new solution to a problem. But that alone is not enough. You need to make it a workable invention, protect it with a patent, and finally find a commercial partner for it that can take development so far that the invention can be applied to the market. At the same time, most scientists do not have the time or knowledge to arrange something like this themselves, and scientific institutions do not have the resources to pay for such a final development needed for practice," says Eva Janouškovcová, chairwoman of Transfera.cz and director of the Technology Transfer Center at Masaryk University.
That is why, since the end of the last century, technology transfer offices have been set up in the world to operate on campus. Their purpose is to find partners willing and able to complete the development of the results of academic research and bring, for example, the invention to consumers.
In the Czech Republic, the Transfera.cz association focuses mainly on technology transfer issues, which brings together about forty offices from the most important domestic scientific and academic institutions and other transfer collaborators. Over the last four years, Transfery members have participated in the establishment of more than 120 university and academic companies, in the provision of almost 500 new licenses for the use of scientific results in practice worth more than 8 billion CZK in license fees.
Successful examples of practical application include, for example, new drugs against tuberculosis or obesity, completely new types of rechargeable batteries, intelligent 3D fabrics and many others. Historically, one of the most successful examples of Czech technology transfer is drugs for HIV or hepatitis B, which help millions of people around the world thanks to the discoveries of Professor Holý.
"The scope of technology transfer offices is relatively wide. They must first identify interesting projects that have a chance of commercial exploitation and take care to protect their intellectual property. If you do not have the invention protected, you will usually not find anyone who would be willing to invest in its further development. Technology transfer offices also help researchers develop their projects so that they can be introduced to potential commercial partners. Scientific articles or patent applications and promises based on them are not enough for them. They want tangible results proving the viability and potential of the project, which is true in both the natural sciences and the social sciences," comments Janouškovcová.
Only when the above issues are solved, which often takes several years, a license agreement is signed with a commercial partner or a start-up is created, i.e. a small start-up company with the ambition to penetrate the world market.In the Czech Republic, technology transfer did not begin to develop on a larger scale until the turn of the millennium. The activities of the first university transfer offices can be monitored around 2000. At that time, centers for the support of innovative entrepreneurship began to emerge, such as the first in 2003, for example, the South Moravian Innovation Center, which still supports the establishment and initial start-up of spin-off companies.
In the following years, Tech transfer offices began to increase gradually at academic institutions, either as an integrated part or, newly, as their subsidiaries - for example, Charles University Innovations Prague (CUIP s.r.o.) at Charles University. These offices gradually began to catch up with the loss of decades behind other developed economies of other countries. There are various forms of transfer offices around the world, often created as commercial subsidiaries owned by the university, because for other companies they can be more reliable and understandable partners in this form than a large and slowly deciding university.
"We see that after several decades of trampling on the spot, the Czech tech transfer is finally starting up. In addition to research institutions, a number of support tools are emerging and researchers are finding that they have partners side by side that they can rely on. A few companies have already been established and some of them are successfully promoting themselves. But that doesn't mean we do not encounter problems. All our work is about perseverance and building trust, which is very difficult to gain and easy to lose. In addition, we all have to deal with a relatively unfriendly and largely uncertain legislative environment, which severely limits the flexibility of this work. At the same time, it is necessary when negotiating with commercial partners," explains Otomar Sláma, director of Charles University Innovations Prague.
The successful transfer of scientific discoveries, inventions and other knowledge into practice is one of the key impulses for the development of the knowledge economy. It is no coincidence that the most technologically advanced countries, such as Israel, the USA and the United Kingdom, hold the primacy in this area. Although the Czechia has great scientific research potential, it is still lagging behind developed countries in the area of technology transfer. In addition to many years of financial support for technology transfer from European Union and national funds, a number of specific initiatives have emerged (e.g. programs of the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic GAMA, government program "The Country for the Future", programs of CzechInvest, etc.). Without professional technology transfer, the Czech Republic would never be competitive in the field of commercialization and use of research results in practice. The Czechia cannot do without in the field of a developed Western economy.