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Interacting with potential licensees and investors is a core part of the remit of a successful knowledge exchange team. Here are six tips for how to identify and interact successfully with existing and potential partners.
1. Draw partners in
It is important to recognise that, in the same way that most knowledge exchange offices (KEOs) will not have the resources to directly scout for new technologies within their own institutions, they will also not have the resource to directly contact all potential licensees and investors, especially if they are dealing with multiple sectors.
So we need to draw them to us through our communications, events and the quality and relevance of our research. For example, here at The Institute of Cancer Research, we aim to make ourselves the first point of call for organisations looking for new technologies and collaborations in the field of oncology. This requires co-operation across a number of internal departments, as it is just as likely to be our research publications or policy work that attract potential partners as any communications we make about our technology.
2. Build relationships
It is likely that every university will have a few key partners that have built up multiple interactions with the institution. Even where resources are limited, it is crucial to maintain direct contact with these key partners through regular and personal communications. Whether they are strategic partners, investors in new ventures or holders of multiple licenses, you need to keep in touch.
In addition to direct communication with key partners, you need an excellent marketing and communications programme and to interface with others within the organisation whose communications may be read by potential partners. We aim to showcase our research and the impact it is having for patients, our commercial successes and our opinions widely through a variety of channels, influencing the outside world to see the ICR as the first place to go for commercial opportunities in oncology.
4. Understand what industry is interested in
Another key way of identifying potential partners is to find companies interested in the sort of research that you are doing. This could be through noting the companies which are publishing papers on similar topics, through patent filings on similar subject matter, by monitoring trade publications or by working with intermediaries. We often find that our academic staff already know which companies are working in their area – simply asking them for the names of companies they would be interested in working with can be fruitful.
5. Get out there
It is also important for us to maintain a presence in the real world, showcasing the ICR and its research and being available to discuss our work and the opportunities for impact and commercial interaction in places where potential commercial partners might be, such as key industry conferences and trade shows. For this reason, members of the ICR’s Enterprise Unit often attend partnering meetings such as JP Morgan week and the BIO series of conferences and major sector meetings such as AACR and ASCO.
6. New ideas
It is important to keep informed about new ways of making research impactful, new companies entering fields of research or new ways of employing research results for societal benefit. For this reason, we also attend conferences such as those organised by PraxisAuril and AUTM to hear how other universities are identifying and engaging with partners and finding new ways to exploit their research outputs.
Even the most successful knowledge exchange offices in academia can sometimes struggle to demonstrate the value they add through highly collaborative endeavours. But they need to try. In the final blog of my series, I’ll explore how we might demonstrate the impact of our work.
Read part six
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