A busy schedule awaited the ASTP-Proton members who came to Zurich for a visit of ETH transfer, the technology transfer office at ETH Zurich. The multi-national delegation received a warm welcome by Silke Meyns, Head of the Patent and Licensing Group at ETH Zurich and member of ASTP-Proton’s Programming Committee.
Silvio Bonaccio, Head of ETH transfer, gave an overview on the technology transfer activities of his unit pointing out that “exploit(ing) their research findings” is part of the Federal Act on the Federal Institutes of Technology, to which ETH Zurich belongs. The importance of this assignment is reflected by the direct attachment of ETH transfer to the executive board of the school.
The research contract group of ETH transfer, led by Andreas Klöti, manages over 1, 000 research contracts each year. Klöti and his co-workers keep an eye on the contracts making sure that the agreements are fair to both signing parties and ETH Zurich is not under selling itself. The group has recently made their General Terms and Conditions of Business publically available.
Stefan Lux, Technology Transfer Manager, triggered a nice discussion on the challenges of evaluating invention disclosures. For example, the line between good engineering and a true inventive step can be very thin. It needs the expertise of a technology transfer manager to point out that line and in the worst-case scenario reject an invention disclosure.
Marjan Kraak, Head of the Spin-off Group, reported on a significant increase in the number start-ups in the area of Information and Communication Technology. Ten of the 25 ETH spin-offs that were founded last year are based on ICT. The innovation environment around ETH Zurich is very favourable as the presence of some major ICT companies in Zurich demonstrates: Google, Facebook, Oracle, IBM and GoPro.
After an extended lunch-break in the “Dozentenfoyer” on the roof of the ETH main building part two of the site visit followed. Melanie Johnson presented marketing of licensing offers via electronic newsletters, technology platforms and social media. Johnson showed that marketing is an essential tool for driving the dialogue between scientists and industry and actually helps technology transfer to happen.
The day ended with a visit of the innovation and entrepreneurship Lab (ieLab) which houses ETH spin-offs and Pioneer Fellows. The pioneer fellowship is a very successful support programme for ETH graduates who develop market-ready products or services based on their inventions. Two thirds of the Pioneer Fellows become company founders. Tomas Brenner, head of the ieLab, answered many questions about the lab and invited two pioneer fellows present their work.