The Foundation Knowledge and Development (CYD) publishes the report: “The technology and knowledge transfer among university-company in Spain: current State, challenge and opportunities”, a study coordinated by Dr. Xavier Testar Ymbert, that presents a complete vision of the state of the art in the relationships between University and Enterprises in Spain.

The report offers a historical vision of the development processes of technology and knowledge transfer in Spain and its relation with the policy framework and the concept of knowledge society in Europe. In particular, speaks about the characteristics and limitations of the main transfer modalities: research by contract agreement, collaborative research, intellectual property assignment or licence and creation of spin-off companies. The form science push, in which the impulse comes from science, ie, the research results obtained by the research groups is growing.

We spoke with Dr. Xavier Testar Ymbert, delegate of the rector for Innovation Strategic Actions of the University of Barcelona and professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, coordinator of the report:

Q: Which are the main aims of this report?

A: The main aim of the study was to review the state of the art of the knowledge and technology transfer between university-company in Spain. In it, we recognized advances attained but also we analysed the causes of existent limitations in the process.

Q: In this sense, which are the indicators that better express this analysis realized?

A: There are several indicators, but I would highlight mainly two of them. The first is the difference of behaviour from the beginning of the economic crisis in the 2008, of the distinct modalities of technology transfer: a clear decrease of research by contract agreement started in 2009 and the growth of science push until the 2010, which has seen braked partially in 2011, as referred by the last RedOTRI Survey.

Another positive indicator is that between 2007 and 2011 has bent practically the number of confidential intellectual property disclosure by the researchers in their technology transfer offices.

Therefore, the crisis has not modified the trend but in my point of view shows the increasing commitment of the researchers with the transfer processes. As I said before, the confidential intellectual property disclosure are the true “raw material” for the technology transfer starting process.

Q: In your opinion,which is the current assessment on the state of technology transfer in Spain?

A: It grows, but still slowly. As I have said, there is a highly positive signal (the increase of volume of confidential intellectual property disclosure) in the Spanish universities. This is a key aspect and constitutes the first step of the transfer process and is a fact that engages the researchers with the Third Mission of the University. This fact is in accordance with the purpose of the Law of the Science, Technology and Innovation, that came out in Spain in the ends of 2011.

However, in spite of this positive data and the increase of spin off companies that are growing annually in Spanish universities, there is a lower volume of benefits for the university by patent licences or spin-off . Also the volume of capitalization that achieve those spin-off companies is very low, this may be due to the low capital risk in our country, among other factors.

Q: As it is quote in the study: “Spain is the 10th country in the ranking of scientific production and generates roughly a 3% of the scientific production world-wide, but however occupies the 30th position regarding innovation capacity. Which may be the reason for this?

A: There are multiple the possible causes, but I would especially highlight the level of maturity of the Innovation ecosystem.

As the INE survey shows, since the crises started the number of companies that declare to do innovation diminished in 2009 and 2010. Also this is showed in the study “Indicators of Spanish system of science and technology, 2012”, realized by ICONO (FECYT), that beside the low percentage of Spanish companies that perform innovation, also shows the low intensity of that innovation. The low percentage of the total innovation represents the introduction of new products in the market, and not only for the company.

Source: Dr. Xavier Testar Ymbert

Therefore, these and other data, draw us a business fabric with a feeble capacity of innovation. That is to say, there is a very limited capacity to absorb knowledge and technology and incorporate it in the productive processes.

This is the fact that I would highlight in the report regarding to the distinct position of Spain in the rankings: the low maturity of the Spanish Innovation Ecosystem as one of the major keys.

Q: Which role play the Technology Transfer Offices (OTRI) in this context?

A: They have a crucial paper. The technology transfer is a long and complex process that requires time, resources, capacity and experience, important ingredients to build the complicities for its success. In Spain, the OTRI provides a close attention to the researcher and in his research group. The staff is characterized by a high level of knowledge that results key for the success of transfer processes.

In this sense, it is very important that the interface units have multidisciplinary capacities, especially regarding number and professional profiles that compose the team and the marked aims. We have to take always in account that, to obtain positive results, the transfer requires time and effort, so it has to be a long term investment.

The report devotes a special chapter to this subject, “The new OTRI. A necessary impulse for a successful model”, by Ismael Rodrigo Martínez, coordinator of RedOTRI Universities.

Acto de presentación del Informe

Q: Which are the main aims and opportunities for the Spanish Innovation System ?

A: Without any doubt, the main aim is to favour a major abortion capacity of knowledge and technology by companies, requirement for increase their innovation capacities. This constitutes an important factor for maturity of the innovation ecosystem, although it is necessary a main entrepreneurship capacity in all the fields, including R&D financial supports, or more risk capital availability, among others.

There is few risk capital and business angles in our country, this fact is very well understood when we compare what happens in other European countries and United States.

Q: As it is showed in the study, Spain has a wide experience in technology transfer, so there are a wide range of best practices to share with other countries. In your opinion, which role plays Spain in the creation of the Ibero-american Knowledge Region?

A: It is difficult to answer to this question. The relationships of professors and researchers and also at institutional level, between Spain and Latin American countries are multiple and varied. I think that building the Ibero-American Knowledge Region is a permanent task in which the potential is enormous. I consider that to promote a main collaboration and exchange of experiences in the technology transfer field between Ibero-american countries would give an important added value to building this common space. The Spanish experience can add a lot to this purpose.

Download the report here: “The technology and knowledge transfer among university-company in Spain: current State, challenges and opportunities”.