A direct encounter between a business and a researcher offers the ideal opportunity for entering a business partnership. Nobody is better equipped to explain the technology to you (protected by an NDA) than the researcher who invented it. It is, however, essential that it be clear that the researcher is not the owner of the invention and is not the right person to contact about a business contract. The company should take care to begin negotiations with the TTO instead of the researcher early on, as only TTO staff are authorised to negotiate licensing contracts with businesses.
No two licensing contracts are alike, and they may vary significantly between technological fields, depending on the company’s intended use of the technology, or the maturity of the technology. There are, however, a few major themes that are present in most contracts:
Geographic scope of licence: worldwide, European, etc.
Field of application: licensed company’s sector, etc.
Duration of licence: for patented inventions, this is often the duration of the patent.
Confidentiality: neither party may divulge confidential information without the consent of the other party.
Publications: permission from the company for ULB researchers to continue to produce publications.
Upfront: a fixed sum to be paid upon signing the contract in return for access to the technology.
Milestones: fixed sums to be paid when certain actions are completed that increase the technology’s value (patent granted in given country, drugs enters clinical phase, etc.).
Royalties: a percentage applied to the sale of products made using the patented technology. Royalties are the most commonly found conditions in a licensing contract.
Minimum royalties: a minimum sum paid by the licence holder irrespective of sales figures for the product made using the patented technology.
Sub-licence: a percentage applied to all income earned by the licence holder in return for a licence granted to a third party by the licencee (e.g. commercial use of technology in given country/sector, etc.).
You are strongly advised to contact the TTO as soon as a company expresses an interest in your technology that may result in you working together (research partnership, development, technology transfer). While you are of course free to provide a succinct introduction to your technology to your business partners, it is imperative that you contact the TTO to draw up a non disclosure agreement before you reveal any confidential information.
As the researcher-inventor of the technology, you are involved in several important points of the transfer process:
explanatory meeting: operating mode, advantages, companies with existing contracts
helping to draft the technology transfer offer: a descriptive document that the TTO uses in communications with target companies
attending technology transfer follow-up meetings: these meetings provide the TTO with an opportunity to review the contacts made and the steps taken so far, and enable researchers to share any scientific advances made concerning the technology.
taking part in the initial meeting(s) with interested parties in order to provide a detailed presentation of the technology and the results obtained.
pre-signature approval of the licensing conditions negotiated by the TTO: typically these include confidentiality, future development, and the right to future publications.
Technology transfer process
European, national, and regional authorities are increasingly basing their Research & Development policies on academic research. Like most universities, the ULB provides support to the business development process. Once the findings of research from ULB laboratories have been identified and, if necessary, protected, there are two main options for business applications:
From our portfolio of 112 active technologies (75 protected by patents), 67 technologies were transferred by assignment or licensing.
I represented my company at a conference where I met a ULB researcher, or I read an interesting publication. Their work fits our R&D strategy perfectly: how can I take advantage of this business opportunity?