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Catapult Special: Converting a research centre

With the proposed expansion of the Catapult network, university innovation centres stand a good chance of becoming part of the family. In the second article in our catapult series, Adam Smith asks what such centres can do to set themselves up as a proto-catapult.

Hermann Hauser’s review of the catapult centre network doesn’t mention traditional technology-transfer offices. You might say they were out of scope. But judging by the way Hauser rolled his eyes when tech-transfer offices were mentioned at the launch of his report, it might be more accurate to say they are out of fashion. “The writing’s on the wall,” says one person working in research commercialisation.

Catapults have become the focus of academic-industry partnerships. Their approach is far more sophisticated than relying on the linear model of commercialisation; catapults aim to grow industries and supply chains through long-running partnerships between researchers and businesses. Hauser said at the launch of his report that tech-transfer offices can be “reasonably effective” but that their model can often be a hindrance. “Like every bureaucracy they’re trying to grow and to look good at the end of the year, so they’re beginning to overvalue intellectual property terribly,” he said.

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