Brisbane-based UniQuest is Australia’s leading university commercialising entity, managing the intellectual property of The University of Queensland. It benchmarks in the top 10 percent globally for university-based technology transfer offices. Transfer of technology from academia to industry is vital to Australia's economy.
There are many contributors to success including research excellence, effective packaging of commercialisation opportunities and highly-trained experts to bridge the gap between academia and industry. But the key is expertly managing intellectual property (IP).
What is technology transfer and why is IP important?
UniQuest works with technologies across many areas or disciplines including health, science, social enterprise, engineering, materials and ICT. Its track record is impressive and includes:
- the blockbuster cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil®
- the Positive Parent Program (Triple P), which over 60,000 practitioners worldwide have been trained to deliver
- technology used in most of the world's magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) medical diagnostics
- the discovery of the IP behind the AU$1B Novartis acquisition of Spinifex Pharmaceuticals - one of Australia’s largest biotechnology company acquisitions.
Chief Executive Dr Dean Moss says patents are important to UniQuest’s business strategy: ‘Patents define the ownership of inventions. This provides a powerful incentive to raise capital and ensure that technologies are developed and reach the population, bringing true economic and health benefits.'
'We have more than 87 granted US patents and have spun out more than 70 start-up companies. Together with these companies, we have raised more than $600 million of investment. Technologies licensed by us, including UQ’s cervical cancer vaccine and MRI image technology, have raised more than $US15.5 billion in gross product sales.'
Managing an IP portfolio requires expertise in a variety of disciplines. Protection is not limited to patents. UniQuest also has staff experienced in copyright, trademarks and contract negotiations. They decide the best form of IP protection to harness the competitive strengths of the research.
Working with a university has its own challenges. Researchers have incentives that may not closely align with business. For example, publishing new research early may help an academic's career but could damage the potential for patenting. Patenting and peer-review publications can happily coexist if managed correctly. Both are important in bridging the gap between academic research and industry. Combining the best of academic and entrepreneurial culture is a key ingredient of UniQuest's success.