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What is Technology Transfer? (Definition and Examples)


Technology transfer is the movement of data, designs, inventions, materials, software, technical knowledge or trade secrets from one organisation to another or from one purpose to another. The technology transfer process is guided by the policies, procedures and values of each organisation involved in the process.

Also known as transfer of technology (ToT), technology transfer can take place between universities, businesses and governments, either formally or informally, to share skills, knowledge, technologies, manufacturing methods, and more. This form of knowledge transfer helps ensure that scientific and technological developments are available to a wider range of users who can then help develop or exploit it. This transfer can occur horizontally across different areas or vertically by moving technologies, for example, from research centres to research and development teams.

Tech transfer is promoted at conferences organised by groups like the Association of University Technology Managers, so that investors can assess the prospect of commercialisation for a ground breaking new product or service.

This commercialisation can involve the creation of joint ventures, licensing agreements and partnerships to share the risks and rewards. This can also be coupled with the raising of venture capital, which is generally more common in the United States than in Europe, for example. Research institutions, governments and businesses may also use the services of technology transfer offices to help with the process. These offices may include economists, engineers, lawyers, marketing experts and scientists.

An important part of tech transfer is the protection of intellectual property (IP) associated with innovations developed at research institutions. This can mean licensing patented intellectual property to outside businesses or the creation of start-up companies to license the IP.

However, before innovations can be brought to market they need to be developed through technology readiness levels (TRL). TRLs 1-3 focus on research while levels 6-7 and higher sees a product move towards production. Bridging the gap between these different levels can be complex and time-consuming, as it requires the development of research into prototypes and then to fully tested and reliable finished products.


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TWI has been actively involved in a number of technology transfer projects, including for additive manufacturing, offshore wind energy and non-destructive testing.

Contact us, below, to see how we can assist with your technology transfer needs.

Technology Transfer Activities

Technology transfer activities differ according to the exact nature of the project, and can include an array of different activities, including:

  • Securing patent and intellectual property rights
  • Assessing the commercial potential of innovations and inventions
  • Marketing technologies to potential licensees and partners
  • Joining up research with commercialisation principles and strategies
  • Assisting with start-up creation and development
  • Securing funding for research and start-up
  • Negotiating license agreements and partnerships
  • Creating a business plan
  • Building innovation ecosystems and structures to support and promote innovation and economic development
  • Encouraging innovation and engaging in entrepreneurship to bring a commercial product to market

There are many other potential activities within technology transfer, depending on the exact nature of the innovation, product, services and end goals.

What are the Three Phases of Technology Transfer?

Technology transfer activities can be broadly split into three phases; preparation, installation and utilisation. These three phases are, in turn, affected by technological, organisational and environmental factors.

However, some people point to six steps in the technology transfer process, these are:

  1. Invention disclosure
  2. Evaluation
  3. Patent application
  4. Assessment and marketing
  5. Patent licensing
  6. Commercialisation

These steps take an innovation forward to a commercial product via market evaluation, intellectual property protection and licensing, as well as promotion and commercialisation for the marketplace.

Why is Technology Transfer Important?

Technology transfer is an important part of the technological innovation process, promoting scientific and technological research and the associated skills and procedures to wider society and the marketplace.

Tech transfer allows research to develop from the discovery of novel technologies along the value chain to disclosure, evaluation and the protection of these breakthroughs. From here, marketing, licensing and further development of products allow the research to become an impactful product, process or service for society. In addition, the financial returns afforded by a successful product can be reinvested into further research to begin the cycle again.

As a result, technology transfer creates revenues for universities to use for faculty recruitment, funding and more research. Companies are able to tap into the advances brought about by this academic research without having to spend on internal R&D to create new products to drive business forward.

The advantages of successful technology transfer can be felt through national and regional economies via growth through innovation, new ventures and stronger industry to boost employment.

Finally, there are benefits for society as a whole, whether that is saving lives, better health, a cleaner environment, and technical advances to deliver new capabilities, products and services.

How Technology Transfer is Adapted by SMEs

Technology transfer is important for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), who are able to utilise the process to help them compete with larger competitors. Rather than having to pay for internal R&D, SMEs are able to form alliances with fellow companies and research institutes to produce innovations, reduce financial risks or share technologies.

SMEs adapt technology transfer to support their needs, address obstacles and challenges, acquire and develop technologies and access new research that they can take forward.

Using tech transfer methods allows SMEs to react to challenges and provide positive contributions to technological advances, economic growth and their own ability to innovate.


Examples of technology transfer can be found across virtually every scientific and industrial area, from pharmaceuticals and medical devices to alternative energy solutions, computing, transport, artificial intelligence, robotics, agriculture, aerospace, environmental improvements and many more.

Many of the products and technological advances we take for granted in our everyday lives came from university or institute research before being transferred to the marketplace through technology transfer procedures.


Technology transfer serves to join research with real world products that can provide benefits for society, solutions to problems and, at the same time, generating profit that can be used to fund further research and development.

Technology transfer is particularly important to SMEs, who are able to leverage outside expertise and research to develop and create new innovations that are ready for the marketplace.

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