Written by Nelisha Naidoo
SARIMA launched for the first time the Expert-in-Residence (“EiR”) programme in 2020 with the objectives of: (i) developing Human Capacity in technology commercialisation, and (ii) to accelerate technology commercialisation efforts at research institutions. The motivation behind establishing such a programme stems from the knowledge that while Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) are mandated with the crucial role of supporting, facilitating and promoting the development and commercialisation of intellectual property emanating from their institutions, in the current South African setting, these offices face major challenges in their efforts to deliver on this mandate. One of the major challenges faced by TTOs is limited budgets that constrain the TTOs’ ability to attract and retain personnel with appropriate technology commercialisation skills and experience. In several cases, institutions do not have dedicated TTOs, but rather have an assigned member of staff with limited to no experience and/or exposure to the commercialisation process necessary to support the technology transfer function. Effective technology commercialisation requires hands-on participation and/or support from experienced and dedicated personnel, who may then be in a position to advise and mentor inexperienced TTO staff. Therefore, despite the suite of professional development interventions provided by SARIMA and its partners, inexperienced TTO staff still require extensive support as they walk the journey of commercialisation with their inventors. The EiR programme is designed to develop and strengthen technology commercialisation skills of TTO staff while also accelerating technology commercialisation in public research institutions through the use of an EiR’s experience and networks. This pilot programme would not have been possible without the financial support of the South African Department of Science and Innovation which has allowed us to support eight TTO’s to date!
The TTOs presented excellent applications for projects that spanned various sectors and required diverse expertise. Some of the exciting projects funded include:
– developing and testing business models for social enterprises in ICT
– engaging regulatory procedures for medical devices
– selecting and developing plans for the top commercialisation opportunities from a TTO portfolio
We wish all the teams the best of luck with the implementation phase and thank you to the Department of Science and Innovation for supporting/funding this project.