Innovation Ireland: Knowledge Transfer Ireland. service launched
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
May 29, 2014 - 7:40 AM

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Innovation Ireland: The latest announcement from Richard Bruton, enterprise & innovation minister, of the launch of Knowledge Transfer Ireland, provides the possibility of "making it easier to commercialise, and ultimately create jobs from, ideas developed through publicly funded research, which currently receives total funding of over €800m per year."

Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) - - claimed to be the first resource of its kind in Europe - - is the State-funded central technology transfer office, located in Enterprise Ireland and operated collaboratively by Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Universities Association.

The key service offered is a web-portal that enables companies to identify experts, research centres and technology-licensing opportunities to benefit their business.

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As usual, hard facts are scarce but there is a misleading claim:

Ireland is already scoring top of the class in Europe in terms of knowledge transfer - the European Commission Knowledge Transfer Study published in June 2013, ranked Ireland first (out of 23 countries) in terms of knowledge transfer performance of public research organisations in individual countries, and we have also been ranked third in the EU in the "Indicator of Innovation Output”, which measures the extent to which ideas from innovative sectors are able to reach the market, providing better jobs and making Europe more competitive. In addition, Ireland is ranked 10th in the WIPO Global innovation Index 2013."

There are about 6,000 full-time equivalent researchers at third level in Ireland and in 2012, the Department of Enterprise said licensing fees were less than €1m annually.

In Europe total license income amounted to €436.5m. Out of the total, approximately €256.5m was earned by universities and approximately €180m by other research organisations. Average license income was €741,285 at universities and €2,535,857m at other research organisations.

Most of the license income is earned by a small percentage of PROs (public research organisations). The top 10% respondents to a European Commission survey showed that universities (35 PROs) earn 86.5% of the total license income earned by all universities in the sample.

Israel produced the most patent grants with an average of 35.9 patent grants per 1,000  research staff. Latvia ranks second with 26.7 patent grants on average per 1,000  research staff and France ranks third with 18.7 patent grants per 1,000 research staff. Croatia, Bulgaria and Hungary produced the least patent grants per 1,000 research staff (see chart above).

According to the European Commission report, the Czech Republic is the most productive country in generating license income with on average €3,130,000 per 1,000 research staff. Israel ranks second with on average €2,081,000 of license income per 1,000 research staff and Belgium ranks third with on average €2,035,000 of license income per 1,000 research staff.

Ireland's level is below the EU average at €352,000 but given the researcher level is at 6,000, the number appears exaggerated and does not tie in with teh Department's total of less than €1m.

Why is there no data on the number of Irish spinouts and their performance?

As for the Global Innovation Index, the biggest Irish R&D spenders are only Irish because they have placed their headquarters in Ireland.

According to a recent Brookings Institution paper, in 2012 a year very much in line with the ten-year trends in this sector, the top 5% of US third level technology earners (8 universities) took 50% of the total licensing income of the university system; and the top 10% (16 universities) took 70%, nearly three-quarters of the system’s income. 

130 universities from 155, did not generate enough licensing income in 2012 to cover the wages of their technology transfer staff and the legal costs for the patents they file. What is more, with 84% universities operating technology transfer in the red, 2012 was a good year because over the last 20 years, on average, 87% did not break even. 

Most spinouts do not grow. 

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