Operational advantages of using IP support systems for Tech Transfer


Managing an intellectual property (IP) portfolio, means dealing with everything from invention disclosures, IP protection to commercialisation agreements that regulate licensing, spin-out company formation , so there is no doubt that a Tech Transfer Offices (TTOs) must handle a lot of complex information. Information accuracy and integrity is a very crucial aspect for IP management and often in such a complex environment, staying abreast of all activities can be very difficult. Solid support systems are required to ensure activities don't end in chaos, and that the TTO can report accurately.

Having spent the last there years implementing the Tech Transfer module of an IP support system InFoEd, for the Wits Tech Transfer office, I have encountered the value and frustrations of such system and have formed some opinions about what works and what doesn't. Here are five key operational advantages offered by an IP support system that in my view are important to consider for effective tech transfer.

Improves efficiency - The ability to maintain high standard decision making in a TTO can easily be compromised if information is not well supported. This is because much of the decision making in TTOs is dependent of a variety of information including information about the inventors, their research programs, funding, patent applications and statuses etc. therefore any IP management support tool that can reduce the amount time spent mining for information from various places will definitely improve efficiency and productivity in a TTO.

Safety of information - Let's face it; it's very frustrating to loose information and even more frustrating to not know where to start looking for it. In any organization, employees can leave and the worst is when information has been kept confidential by a single individual (in their head or email) who then leaves the organization and the information is lost. An IP support system tool that can allow for a single place to store info with tight security access controls for different role players in an organization and can be retain info even when staff leaves.

Enforces structure and consistency - Because TTOs deal with various forms of information, structure is important, even more so when information is handled by more than one person or have to go through various individuals for review. IP management tools that can ensure structure and consistency when information is captured as well as on the output side when generating reports can provide a great deal of support for TTOs.

Inventor friendly portals -The biggest clients to any TTO are the inventors and it is important to ensure that they are satisfied. When seeking to leverage an IP support system, consider software with an inventor portal that is simple and intuitive for inventors to use when submitting invention disclosures and tracking the progress of their inventions.

Stay on top of government compliance - In complying with the IPR Act, TTOs in South Africa submit various reports timeously to the regulator, NIPMO, for publicly funded IP. Although this is currently done manually, it would be useful to have a software tool that can provide electronic reporting to assist TTOs to stay on top of government compliance.

Whilst the IP management systems market is filled with a broad range of options from service providers seeking to improve the efficiency of tech transfer, shortcomings exist with any software and it's important to be aware of these on the onset. What to look-out for when deciding to implement IP management software? That is an opinion piece for another day.

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