This year, the Directors Dinner that is traditionally organized prior to the ASTP-Proton annual conference, was held in Restaurant Cassiopeia, a spacious dining location overlooking the lovely Saint George’s Lake in down town Copenhagen. About 35 directors joined the dinner to discuss business, share news and ideas and, of course, have lots of fun. The dinner was moderated by Steven Tan, VP Finance & External Affairs, who entertained the group on the topic “Re-structuring offices”.
The weather in Copenhagen was exceptional and a welcome toast of Kir was offed on the lakeside terrace that was covered by a wonderful evening sun. As soon as the group went inside, Steven introduced the evening by welcoming everybody and reminded the participants to the motto of the directors dinner: “What is said at the directors dinner stays at the directors dinner” to invite the directors to speak freely and openly on all subjects, even the topics that one may not be particularly proud of or that rather stay out of direct daylight. It is those subjects that are usually most interesting and instructive, and most often highly entertaining.
Steven introduced the theme of “Re-structuring offices”, which he interpreted in a much broader way. In his view, the knowledge transfer practice is developing and improving itself in an evolutionary manner. This is due partly because it is a relatively young profession that is developing its own practice instead of following and copying our American colleagues. This is a process of professionalization and maturation. But there are also external factors that drive the development of the KT practice and the change of organisational structure of KT offices. Hence, Steven invited the group to talk about “how KT offices adapt to constantly changing circumstances”. How does your office evolve and how can you, as a director, actively lead that process of evolution?
Steven introduced a specific driving to be discussed at the table prior to the three courses and invited two tables per topic to present their findings afterwards.
Entrée – How to deal with ambitious economic development policies?
During the entrée, the directors were asked to discuss the effects of increasingly demanding national and regional economic development policies. How do the TTOs adapt to intensifying political pressures, expanding tasks and high – and sometimes unrealistic – expectations?
After a delightful entrée of stuffed salmon roll with spinach cream and lemon, Marc Legal, CEO of PULSALYS (Regional TTO of Lyon Saint-Etienne, France) shared some personal experiences and insights on the development of regional TTOs in France, a project known as SATT – Sociétés d’accélération du transfert de technologie (Technology Transfer Accelerator Companies). This is a national project that started in 2012 and resulted in the establishment of 14 regional TTO’s covering the whole of France. The French government allocated nearly EUR 900 million in this project. The objective of each SATT office is to become self-sustaining after 10 years. Marc shares some very interesting personal observations. A few directors provided comments on Marc’s presentation. All directors present agreed that SATT is a very ambitious program of unprecedented scale. All were keen to follow SATT in its development.
Main Course – How to cope with new tasks and functions of your office?
During the main course the directors were asked to discuss the effects of new tasks and functions that are constantly added to the TTO. How do directors respond to the request to develop KT services in the field of Social Sciences and Humanities (“SSH”)?
After an elegant main dish of fillet with baked root vegetables, pommes rissoles and red wine sauce Ivo de Nooijer, Director of LURIS, the TTO of Leiden University and Leiden University Medical Center shared his experiences with setting up KT in the field of SSH. He presented a few concrete cases, including the development of a commercial service in the field of archaeology and a project based on 3D simulation of the ancient city of Rome. Overall Ivo concluded that there are plenty of opportunities in the field of SSH, but there is often lack of awareness and ambition with the researchers to realise the potential. In that sense, the situation is similar to the situation in exact sciences a couple of years ago. Catching up will take time. Sara Matt-Leubner, Director of Transidee, TTO of the University of Innsbruck, agreed with Ivo. She also presented a few cases of SH valorisation from Innsbruck University.
Dessert – How to fund your office in a sustainable way?
During the dessert, the directors were asked to discuss the effects of organisational growth and in particular how to finance the growth of the office in a sustainable manner. Most TTOs are funded by a fixed budget from the institute and are enabled to develop and expand by national and regional subsidies. It is a fact that most TTO’s will not achieve self-sustainability, even in a steady state. This implies that TTOs must develop a stable source of funding for the activities after the subsidies stop. Typically the institute is not willing or able to increase the budget. So, what alternative sources are available to prove continuity?
After a luxurious desert of apple trifle with macaroons, Amaretto and mascarpone crème, Sean Fielding, Director of the TTO of the University of Exeter and board member of Praxis Unico, presented the case of his institute. At Exeter, the TTO sits down with faculty and develops plans and ambitions for knowledge transfer. They then define the required capacity from the TTO to realize its ambitions. The capacity is then translated into a budget that is to be funded by the faculty itself. Once in agreement the faculty and TTO enter into a service level agreement. This way ambition, capacity and budget are always in balance.#