20 May 2014

Brisbane-based UniQuest has a solid reputation for commercialising university research. This transfer of technology from academia to industry is vital for Australia's economy. There are many parts to the equation, such as people, technology and finance, but intellectual property (IP) is a common denominator.

So what exactly is technology transfer and why is IP important?

UniQuest began at The University of Queensland and works in many technologies including health, software and engineering. Its track record is impressive and includes:

  • the blockbuster vaccine Gardasil®
  • Australia's largest biotech listing on the share market (QRxPharma)
  • technology used in two-thirds of the world's MRI medical diagnostics.

Managing Director Mr David Henderson says, 'Patents are important to our business strategy. They define the ownership of inventions. This reduces financial risk and provides a powerful incentive to raise capital.'

'We have more than 1,500 patents and over 70 start-up companies. UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $450 million of investment. Annual sales of products with technology licensed by UniQuest now exceed $3 billion.'

Collaboration is the key

UniQuest has agreements with universities and research institutes. These include the Mater Medical Research Institute, the University of Technology Sydney, James Cook University, the University of Tasmania, and Queensland Health. UniQuest packages their combined know-how and innovations into highly attractive investment and partnering opportunities.

UniQuest embeds Managers of Innovation and Commercial Development (MICDs) into each institution. Managers foster an entrepreneurial culture and support researchers looking to commercialise their IP. The MICDs use the latest communications technology to liaise with other commercialisation professionals in UniQuest's Brisbane hub.

'Collaboration works well when there's synergy between the client's needs, the researcher's expertise, and the University's resources. It's often the catalyst for breaking new ground. That's why we facilitate some 650 consulting, expert opinion, testing, and contract research services each year' said Mr Henderson.

UniQuest is also a member of NineSigma, a research and development network of large companies, small and medium enterprises, government laboratories and industry groups. A partnership with the Danish Technological Institute also opens doors with European industry groups and international academics.

UniQuest's International Development division helps AusAID and the World Bank share expertise and IP. Developing nations benefit with research to build social and economic capacity within their own communities.

IP management

Managing an IP portfolio requires expertise in a variety of disciplines. Protection is not limited to patents. UniQuest also has staff experienced in copyright, trade marks and contracts. They decide the best IP protection to capture the competitive strengths of any particular research.

Working with universities has its own issues. Researchers have incentives that may not closely align with business. For example, publishing new research early may help an academic's career but could hinder the patenting process.

Patenting and peer-review publication can happily coexist if managed correctly. Both are important in bridging the gap between research and venture capital communities. Combining the best of academic and entrepreneurial culture is a key ingredient of UniQuest's success.

For further information on UniQuest, contact:
Leanne Wyvill, Corporate Development Manager
Ph: +61 7 3365 4037