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Between 2014 and 2016, Lessons Learned have attracted more than 600 participants in a total of 15 sessions (Photo: cataloniaBio).

Technology transfer, a win-win for research, industry and patients

Technology transfer (TT) should make an impact on society in the form of new medications, devices and technology to improve health. To make this happen, public research centers and industry must work together.The latest Lessons Learned session, held by Biocat and CataloniaBio on 31 May at the Barcelona Science Park (PCB), featured four experts from the business arena, academia and venture capital sharing the lessons they’ve learned in recent years in Catalonia.


Felip Miralles, director of the eHealth Unit at Eurecat, kicked off the session by explaining that transfer has three stages: identifying new technology, protection (patents) and the development and marketing strategy. Miralles recommended companies do proof of concept as it helps “cut costs and demonstrate the financial feasibility of the project.” The Eurecat technology center is currently leading more than one hundred projects like Nextcare for multidisciplinary technology transfer in personalized medicine, funded through the RIS3CAT healthcare community coordinated by Biocat.

“We’ve learned that TT doesn’t just come about by chance, it is a multi-stage, multidisciplinary, multi-directional process,” explained Francisco Moreno, director of Science and Technology Transfer at the Botín Foundation. This organization has been working in technology transfer for over 20 years. Moreno believes innovation is the responsibility of companies, not research centers which have to generate the knowledge, and that “implementing management procedures and metrics helps assess progress.”

The business point of view

For industry, it is clear: innovation has to come before the patent. Carlos Plata, CSO and CMO of Esteve with more than 20 years working in countries like the United States and Japan, recommends companies establish a long-term patent strategy: “Any strategy is valid, but it must be personalized to fit the company’s specific goals.”

He also spoke about sharing profits and risks. “The aims, motivations and interests of both parties must remain clear in order to create a successful dynamic,” explained Plata. But without a key interlocutor it won’t go anywhere, “You can only come up with a successful model if you have the right people.” Francisco Moreno of the Botín Foundation had the same experience, adding, “It must be a relationship based on trust, growing over time and taking into account that many times the academic world can’t meet industry timelines and needs.”

Eight years ago, Esteve designed its R&D strategy and one of its key decisions was to move the R&D center to the PCB, where there are 80 researchers working, to take advantage of the synergies there. The company’s TT models are public-private partnerships, research consortia and strategic joint units with universities.

CaixaImpulse program

To finish off the session, Caixa Capital Risc Project and Program Manager Gemma Torruella highlighted that from the investor’s point of view, “If you want to transfer, the sooner the better.” Caixa Capital Risc, with the “la Caixa” Foundation, has set up the CaixaImpulse program to promote transfer and valorization from public hospitals, universities and research centers. So far, €3.4 millions have been invested in 35 projects. “Our focus isn’t on the person, it’s on the project. Our aim isn’t to create entrepreneurs,” Torruella clarified, “it is important to be all the decision-makers involved because the decisions are transformative.”