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Science and business – between technology commercialisation and knowledge transfer

Cooperation between business and universities takes place at many levels, including through a number of activities that can be described by the buzzword "commercialisation". What is technology commercialisation and why has there been so much talk about it in recent years?

Basic terms

At the outset, I would like to explain two basic concepts – technology commercialisation and knowledge transfer. Commercialisation (from commerce) is the activities related to building a business model of a technology or shaping the process of selling or implementing a technology for practical use. According to the statutory definition, it is the sale of results of scientific activities or know-how related to these results as well as licensing, renting or leasing of such solutions.

Knowledge transfer is, most generally, knowledge sharing and concerns two types of knowledge: know how – unique, specific knowledge of a given organisation (e.g. a university) which may be related to research conducted in a given field, and know what, which may be defined as theory (definitions of terms, descriptions, professional terminology).

Interrelationships

Now that we know exactly what we are talking about, we can consider what relationships exist between the above-mentioned concepts? The term commercialisation is directly related to the technology developed at the university (the result of intellectual work) and includes all activities aimed at its implementation, i.e. practical application in the economy – patent protection of the invention, pre-implementation research, preparation of technological offer and the negotiation process with potential buyers.

Knowledge transfer should be understood much more broadly, mainly because it may, but does not have to be associated with technological solutions. The commercialisation of technology is also associated with specific know-how concerning the possibility of practical application of a given invention in various areas of the economy, which may also constitute an element of commercialisation. The second category of objects that can be the subject of knowledge transfer are the results of intellectual work (in a simplified form we can assume that these are the results of research), which are not technological in nature. Concepts, theoretical models or expert knowledge in the humanities and social sciences can also be implemented in the economy, examples of which will be presented later in this text.

How is knowledge transferred?

Knowledge is a very specific intangible asset – often immeasurable and very difficult to value. Its value often depends on its applicability in a specific context (otherwise it may be useless). The issues related to the protection of intellectual property are set out in two laws: Industrial Property Law (IPL) and the Act on Copyright and Related Rights (PrAutU). The above mentioned regulations specify the types of protection and transfer of rights to knowledge that is created (among others) at universities:

  • Patent – constitutes the right of exclusive use of an invention for a specified period of time, in a profit-making manner (industrial or commercial) on the territory of a given country or countries. Patents cover certain types of intellectual work results – any technical solution. Patent protection is granted for a maximum of 20 years, a patent may be traded – sold, leased, rented, lent or licensed.
  • Work – any manifestation of creative activity of an individual nature. A work has to fulfil 3 features: it has to be a result of work of a person (creator), it has to be a manifestation of creative activity (stand out) and have an individual character (could another person create it).
  • A license is a type of (civil law) agreement between two parties that specifies the terms and conditions of use of a work.

The terms “work” and “license” are defined in copyright law and their application is broader than in the case of industrial property law, which applies only to technical solutions. of a technical nature. The above distinction is important from the perspective of cooperation with a non-technical university, such as Wrocław University. Among 10 faculties, almost a half has a humanistic and social character. Non-technical faculties also conduct research that is successfully applied in business practice.

Knowledge transfer in practice

The University of Wrocław has numerous examples of knowledge transfer in areas beyond technology and related to the fields of social sciences and humanities and humanities, these include:

  • Pracownia Prostej Polszczyzny – a team of researchers from the Faculty of Philology of UWr has been involved in language simplification on behalf of institutions and companies since 2010. If you have noticed a change in the way you communicate, e.g. with the Tax Office, it is thanks to the cooperation of the National Tax Administration with the PPP team. The studio provides training and advisory services and awards the Straight Polish Certificate. Apart from the KAS, its services have also been used by local governments, banks, insurance or energy companies that care about more efficient and friendly communication. You can learn more about the principles of Simple Polish as part of the series “Prosto i dotka”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1ufyW5mE4o
    website: http://ppp.uni.wroc.pl/
  • The Leopoldina Project – a project for the integration and access to electronic collections of the University of Wrocław, which makes it possible to get to know the most valuable collections of, among others, the University Library without leaving home. Thanks to a professionally equipped digitisation laboratory and technical facilities (a highly advanced computing centre), the University of Wrocław also enables other cultural institutions in the region to transfer their collections to the Internet.
    website: http://ppp.uni.wroc.pl/
  • Internet Recruitment of Foreigners – software created as a result of many years of experience of the staff of the International Cooperation Office and the analytical approach of a programmer. The distinguishing feature of this solution is its comprehensiveness – the system serves not only to register candidates, but also to handle the entire process of recruiting students from abroad. The system was created for the University’s own needs, but has also been successfully implemented at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology.

¹ Law on higher education and science – Article 148(4)

² link: https://uprp.gov.pl/pl/przedmioty-ochrony/wynalazki-i-wzory-uzytkowe/wynalazki-i-wzory-uzytkowe-informacje-podstawowe/czym-jest-patent-na-wynalazek-i-prawo-ochronne-na-wzor-uzytkowy

Maciej Kamiński  Maciej Kamiński, Director of the Technology Transfer Centre of the University of Wrocław

A graduate of the University of Wrocław, majoring in International Relations, he is writing his PhD in Economics. He has many years of experience in running his own business. Member of the DAIP board and the chapter of the Great Startup Battle contest. Academic lecturer and coach with many years of experience. Author of numerous publications and a book.

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