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Learning in University Technology Transfer Offices: Transactions-focused and relations-focused approaches to commercialisation of academic research

Weckowska, D

Technovation   41-42 (Jul-Aug) 62–74

DOI: 10.1016/j.technovation.2014.11.003

July 2015

University Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) need a wide range of abilities to facilitate commercial exploitation of research outputs; however, we know relatively little about how these important abilities are developed and refined over time.
We draw on practice-based studies of learning to create a novel conceptualization of learning processes and their outcomes in TTOs and show that this conceptualization of learning provides new empirical insights into how learning in TTOs shapes their commercialization practice.
We investigate learning-in-practice in case studies of six UK TTOs and find two approaches to commercialization, namely transactions-focused practice and relations-focused practice.
We find that both practices co-exist and co-evolve in some TTOs while other TTOs are predominantly transactions-focused. For the latter the development of a relations-focused approach is difficult, but possible if there is strategic direction and if sources of inertia are removed by TTO directors. Given that evolving practice cannot be fully explained by informal learning processes, we suggest that so far separate streams of practice-based literature on learning and strategizing should be brought together. The implications for further investigations of TTO abilities and some recommendations for policy and practice are discussed.
The accepted version of this paper is available here.