What key skills and mindsets are vital to succeed in tech transfer?
As tech transfer professionals, what we do is survey a broad range of research, spot the opportunity or the potential in that research, determine what we need to do to take that opportunity forward and then make that happen.
We look at ideas and think: how can this benefit patients? Or how could this generate income? Or both. And when we spot the potential in an idea, or product, we think about what we need to do to drive the idea forward, and that could be: bringing in expertise, bringing in collaborators, looking at getting an idea patented – every translational process is different.
One of the key things for us is being able to think broadly, to think big, to have a mind that can look at something and think “What can we do with that?”, “If we put this with that, maybe we could do this”, “How could this innovation change normal practice?”.
We need people who are creative and we need independent minds who can look at something beyond their area of expertise and see the potential in it.
We then need people who can realise that potential, and for this it’s about leadership skills: people who can bring others together and make things happen. We also need people who are great communicators and able to convey bad as well as good news sensitively and in a way that maintains strong relationships.
It’s not uncommon for us to work with PIs who have done some great research, and they think it is a commercial proposition, but we don’t necessarily see the translational opportunity there, or maybe we don’t see it yet. We have to convey that sensitively in a way that maintains good relationships. Communication and relationship management is a huge part of the job. And in this new world of data and AI we are all having to upskill in that area too.
Tech transfer is quite a niche career and we’ve always struggled to recruit people directly from a tech transfer background. Typically, we look for a background in oncology, a PhD in oncology and often a postdoc.
A postdoc is not an absolute requirement, but it’s good to have as we know that postdocs have worked as independent researchers, generated their own ideas, built their own projects, got their own funding etc, even if it’s just a travel grant. That helps.