Invention ideas just in your head? We can help you get started! Learn about our staff, our pipeline of products on their way to the market and more

Overview of Technology Transfer

What is technology transfer?

Technology transfer is the transfer of knowledge and discoveries to the public. It can occur through publications, educated students entering the workforce, exchanges at conferences, and relationships with industry, among other things. For the purposes of this guide, technology transfer refers to the formal licensing of technology to third parties under the guidance of professionals employed by universities, research foundations, and businesses.

What is the Office for Translation & Commercialization?

OTC is a University service unit composed of specialists in research review, licensing, business development, and legal matters who are experienced in transferring technologies from the physical sciences, biological sciences, and information and computer sciences. We are responsible for managing invention disclosures from all schools and colleges at Duke.

Why would a researcher want to participate in the technology transfer process?

The reasons are unique to each researcher and may include:

  • Making a positive impact on society
  • Feeling a sense of personal fulfillment
  • Achieving recognition and financial rewards
  • Generating additional lab/departmental funding
  • Meeting the obligations of a research contract
  • Attracting research sponsors
  • Creating educational opportunities for students
  • Linking students to future job opportunities

How is technology transferred?

Technology is typically transferred through a license agreement in which the University grants its rights in the defined technology to a third party for a period of years, often limited to a particular field of use and/or region of the world. The licensee (the third party licensing the technology) may be an established company or a new business start-up. Licenses include terms that require the licensee to meet certain performance requirements and to make financial payments to the University. These payments are shared with the inventors and are also distributed to the schools/colleges, departments/units, and central administration to provide support for further research, education, and participation in the tech transfer process.

The Bayh-Dole Act

The U.S. Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 allows universities and other non-profit institutions to have ownership rights to discoveries resulting from federally funded research, provided certain obligations are met. These obligations include making efforts to protect (when appropriate) and commercialize the discoveries, submitting progress reports to the funding agency, giving preference to small businesses that demonstrate sufficient capability, and sharing any resulting revenues with the inventors. The Bayh-Dole Act is credited with stimulating interest in tech transfer activities and generating increased research, commercialization, educational opportunities, and economic development in the United States. Please find more information about the Act here.

* Throughout this website, unless specifically described otherwise, the term inventor includes individuals listed on a patent as well as contributors who have shared in creating the value of intellectual property that is not patented.

37 years later: What the Bayh-Dole Act has meant for Duke and society as a whole