Big benefits 1

September 22, 2006

The conclusions drawn in "Transfers prove costly" (September 15) do not reflect the performance of university technology-transfer offices (TTOs).

While the costs of TTOs are known, income generated by them through research contracts, consultancy, licensing and spin-off share sales often goes directly to the university or department, not to the TTO.

How a particular university accounts for this income will have significantly affected the answer to the question asked by The Times Higher under the Freedom of Information Act, leading to misleading results. Even so, the article identified only 11 of the 125 institutions that do not cover their costs.

The Government is to be congratulated for supporting the view that university technology transfer is essential to the health of the UK's knowledge-based economy. Since 1997, it has invested £500 million (not £100 million) to support universities across all areas of knowledge exchange and commercialisation. The past three years have seen 25 UK university spin-off firms listed on international stock exchanges with a combined market valuation of £1.5 billion. This value to the UK economy is vital.

For universities, the primary purpose of technology transfer is not revenue. It is about fulfilling a responsibility to ensure that the significant public investment in research is translated into economic and social benefit.

Neil Bradshaw, Tony Raven, Phil Clare, Kevin Cullen, Mark Thompson and David Secher
University Companies Association

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