Building university-industry confidence to accelerate innovation through KTTOs
The low rate of knowledge transfer between the university and industry continues to pose a challenge in speeding up the innovation process. A study conducted by USAID through its STRIDE program showed that among the factors contributing to this are mutual distrust, disagreement in terms of partnerships, and absence of support institutions that enable collaborative research.
“We realized that instead of focusing on commercialization, we should also focus on building relationships. If you build good relationships, commercialization will eventually follow,” said Dr. Carmelo Ambut.
Dr. Ambut is the Vice President for Research and Extension of Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISAT U). He was among the first 10 participants in a series of workshops on establishing a Knowledge and Technology Transfer Office (KTTO) that started in 2014. It was initiated by the USAID STRIDE program in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines. The activity aimed to enhance the capacity of universities on intellectual property-related management and technology transfer initiatives, and provide a mechanism where academic researchers and industry leaders can work together to turn technologies and inventions into commercial products and services.
“We’ve learned from the workshop that after generating technologies from research, the next step should be the transfer of technology,” said Dr. Ambut. He used his learning to help improve his university’s research capacity. As such, one of the initiatives he pushed for was “1K Cups Caffeination”, an event inspired by industry networking events he witnessed when he went to the U.S. as part of the KTTO development activity of STRIDE. Through the 1K Cups, an ISAT U-developed spring remover technology used in car repairs was noticed and is now in the final testing stage with a local car dealership.
Gaining from this experience, ISAT U set up its own KTTO, changed its organizational structure to put people in charge of patent protection and technology transfer, and reached out to more industries and local businesses for research support. The university also found a way to collaborate with other universities that resulted in the creation of an informal hub in Iloilo working to address technical issues faced by industries. Meanwhile, its networking with field experts resulted in an asset inventory that serves as a directory of services and corresponding experts available in the region.
Apart from bringing in more innovations, ISAT U is also set to focus in addressing socio-economic issues, thus further strengthening its efforts to encourage more people to take part in its initiatives. “We want to train and enable more people like how STRIDE enabled us,” said Dr. Ambut. “For me, the enabling environment created for us is the most beautiful thing about this experience because that made us realize that we can do things,” he added.
As a manifestation of its commitment to continue on its path, ISAT U allotted a physical office for its KTTO in its Research Hub which also houses research laboratories. The move is expected to further streamline the research and extension activities of the university.
According to Mr. Jan Vincent Sollesta of Maridan Industries, a manufacturing firm of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies located in Iloilo, the research hub signals the academe’s willingness to work with industries and promote collaboration between the two sectors. “Usually, new ideas come from industry because we know the market, but we need someone with technical background who can help us develop the best product for the people”, he said. He believes that once universities show openness to do joint research with industries, more companies will respond positively.
As of June 2018, 40 universities were assisted in establishing their respective KTTOs. With its promising outcomes, USAID STRIDE plans on continuing this initiative by empowering these universities to become mentor-institutions and help grow more KTTOs in other universities in the country. The KTTO initiative is in line with USAID working with its partners to achieve inclusive economic growth by helping universities align their research agenda with the demands of industry and the community.