Factors affecting the implementation of technology transfer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act No. 51 of 2008 (IPR-PFRD Act) was promulgated on 2 August 2010 in South Africa which makes it mandatory for publicly funded institutions, such as the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), to carry out technology transfer activities and correctly manage its intellectual property (IP). UKZN is rated as one of the top three higher education institutions in South Africa in terms of research output and has a relatively large and diverse patent portfolio. Despite the significant investments made in promoting technology transfer activities at UKZN, the technology transfer office (TTO) has failed to successfully commercialise an invention since its establishment. The aim of this study was to identify the factors that affect the implementation of technology transfer at UKZN. Due to the small number of inventors on the TTO database, a qualitative study was conducted. The participants in this study comprised of eight inventors who had filed patent applications with UKZN’s TTO. The respondents were familiar with the TT process at UKZN and were able to provide rich detailed information. Face-to-face interviews were conducted to collect data from the respondents. An interview schedule was used to guide the discussions and where necessary, probe and follow-up questions were asked. The results of the study have shown that the majority of inventors were dissatisfied with the service provided by the TTO, more especially in respect of limited funding provided by the TTO and the lack of business and commercialisation expertise of the TTO staff. It was recommended that in order to become more effective the TTO must employ suitably qualified staff with expertise in commercialisation, networking and business skills; furthermore, larger sums of seed funding is needed to finance new projects. A major limitation of the study is that in order to protect the identities of respondents, the researcher had to withhold specific project details.