Commercialization of scientific research at UMCS - an interview with Anna Grzegorczyk

An interview with Anna Grzegorczyk, the director of the Centre for Knowledge and Technology Transfer at UMCS (interviewed by Agnieszka Stańczak) was published in June "University News". We invite you to read!

What is the importance of commercialization for research and universities? Why is it worth commercializing research and establishing cooperation with the socio-economic environment?

Under the Law on Higher Education and Science, the mission of the higher education and science system is to conduct the highest quality education and scientific activity, to shape civic attitudes, as well as to participate in social development and the creation of an economy based on innovation. The latter element is essential and emphasized in the UMCS Statute, which indicates basic activities for applying science and art, research services, and knowledge and technology transfer to the economy.

Apart from statutory tasks, the transfer of knowledge and technology is an important factor subject to evaluating scientific disciplines—both as a monetized - financial indicator and the impact of research on the social and economic environment. The impact of research and scientific results shows the practical application of science, its usefulness and universality.

The commercialization of research and benefits for the economy and society and individuals' evaluation also has a practical and financial dimension for innovators. Commercialization allows the creators of the implemented solutions to generate additional revenues. It is worth noting that commercialization and implementation are not only related to exact sciences. Many interesting, innovative non-technological solutions come from humanities and social sciences, and their impact on the economy is widely noticed.

The policy of supporting innovation, the introduced incentive instruments, both in the form of European funds addressed to entrepreneurs, and scientific and industrial consortia, as well as the tax relief system and a wide range of dedicated VC funds, build the culture of a modern economy based on knowledge and technology. Creating an innovation ecosystem, dedicated institutions and innovation centres, and supporting applied scientific research brings mental changes in understanding the role of scientists. Intellectual property created at the university can be easier, faster and more efficiently implemented, both sides of the process: science and business gain tangible benefits, and the end recipient, client or citizen receives a proven, science-based product or service, the quality of which is guaranteed by the University's brand.

Yes, commercialization, implementation, and application of scientific research and development works are important for all of us.

The word "commercialization" may raise concerns and suggest that it is a complicated process. Is it really so? What does a researcher have to do for his discovery or invention to be used in business?

We start the commercialization process by mapping the University's capabilities and resources in search of solutions, technology or knowledge for which there is market demand. We build an internal "knowledge base" regarding the possibility of research workers participation in commissioned research, consortia, implementation projects, and research topics and equipment. This knowledge, built know-how, allows you to quickly respond to the needs of entrepreneurs and build an appropriate market offer. Collaborative innovation brokers professionally handle collaboration processes by combining two key elements: science and business.

Work in technology transfer requires fluent knowledge of the licensing and sale of research results, intellectual property protection, and very high work culture and flexibility in contacts between both parties. Brokers as sales specialists work for the University, being de facto representatives of the University in business. Building trust between the parties allows us to establish new relationships and contributes to this significant part of the University's mission. All administrative, formal or "sales" activities are on the broker's side so that the researcher is focused only on the merits of the process.

What must a researcher do? First, provide information about the research, products and knowledge of a potentially implementing nature to the Centre for Knowledge and Technology Transfer, and also - if the discovery is inventive - also to the Patent Attorney. In the Transfer Centre, together with the creator, we will consider how and where we could implement a given solution, whether an additional promotion is needed, e.g. a trade fair or exhibition, how to protect it and safely offer it to a potential recipient. We prepare an offer, materials and an initial commercialization plan in close consultation with academics.

For commercialization to occur, the researcher must be an active participant in the process. Without the support of the creator or creators, implementation and transfer are practically impossible. Both the stage of preparing the offer, negotiations, presenting the possibility of a solution and the final rescaling are inextricably linked with the author. Substantive support is the main role of an academic teacher as an active participant of the implementation, who, with his knowledge and experience, engages in cooperation with the entrepreneur.

As a result of our joint effort, new products are created based on the goods of the University, which generate real financial benefits for both entrepreneurs, universities and creators.

How does the UMCS Knowledge and Technology Transfer Centre support research workers and entrepreneurs?

The Centre for Knowledge and Technology Transfer of UMCS is a university-wide unit with its own regulations and the Supervisory Board - a body verifying the implementation of tasks and goals for which it was established. In particular, it is direct commercialization of the results of scientific research and development works, i.e. in short, the licensing and sale of intellectual property developed at UMCS and servicing the provision of commercial research works commissioned by economic entities. In addition, CTWiT initiates and coordinates research and development projects implemented in scientific and industrial consortia, conducts promotional activities, and intensifies the university's participation in social and economic initiatives related to research.

We are a team of six that I have the honour and pleasure to lead. All employees are indicated as innovation brokers and specialize in the following areas: legal, related to the protection of intellectual property, financial - related to sales support, and project - as supervisors of individual grants. We are an office that actively and actively communicates with employees and networks business contacts. We participate in clusters, industry meetings, fairs and conferences. We are there where we can present the commercialization offer of the University. One of the activities is "Mornings with Innovation" as part of the Innovation Incubator 4.0 project, which we carry out with the Medical University of Lublin. It is a program dedicated to units like ours. It allows pre-implementation support to be provided to promising research results in mini-grants worth up to PLN 100,000. PLN. Such a comprehensive model of operation allows us to increase the profits of Scholars and its participation and impact on society and the economy from year to year.

The new activities that we started this year are related to the participation of CTWiT employees in the Scientific Councils of Institutes, under which we conduct dissemination and popularization activities related to the University's tasks in the context of cooperation with the environment, we inform about the possibilities, principles, resulting therefrom. Meetings are planned in most institutes, and we hope to see their effects in the current period of discipline evaluation.

What projects have been implemented recently?

We are currently in advanced talks with several entrepreneurs planning to conduct joint research and development works to establish consortia. As part of our ongoing activities, we prepare dedicated offers, and we have started talks with a leading cable manufacturer, which should result in real profits for the University soon. The success of the last months is completing the commercialization process in the form

of an exclusive license of four patents creating a solution package based on Nod factors. This is our great success because the bio-fertilizer industry is very demanding. One of the solutions was created with the participation of IUNG PIB employees, so it also shows our possibilities of cooperation between research units. Work on this commercialization lasted over four years, was associated with a long process of testing, research, experiment and negotiation. Contribution of the creators, in particular dr. Hab. Jerzy Wielby, prof. UMCS was the main factor of success, which I congratulate immensely. We hope that following this achievement, and we will manage to commercialize further inventions this year.

Solutions related to the beekeeping environment are close to this, including, inter alia: a wax testing device, auxiliary extracts for bees, a device for conducting precise measurements in beehives.

What plans will be implemented soon?

The current year is primarily the end of the evaluation period of scientific disciplines. We will face the work related to preparing and introducing data related to our activity and assigning them to disciplines. The results of the evaluation will show UMCS's position on the scientific and innovative map of Poland. We hope that the work we systematically perform will result in high scores and a good final grade, which, apart from strictly research activities, emphasises cooperation with the economy.

Despite the pandemic that has lasted for over a year, we have managed to generate greater profits from research activities than last year, and we acquired three large projects. We submitted a total of twelve grant applications, of which as many as nine are in consortia with entrepreneurs. I am very pleased with the involvement of the research staff, openness and willingness to cooperate, and happy endings when, after a long time of negotiations, we can celebrate the success and implementation of a new solution based on research conducted at UMCS. Together, we build the brand of a complete, ambitious University made up of top-class scientists and innovations based on their ideas. Apart from science and teaching, the university's third mission is the combination of these elements - effective and efficient cooperation with the socio-economic environment and a real impact on social and economic development at the regional, national and global level.

We invite all willing scientists and entrepreneurs to cooperate with our team! I am convinced that we will achieve common success with systematic and reliable work. The effective commercialization of knowledge and technology and cooperation between science and business will permanently fit into the landscape of Polish science.



    Monika Kusiej
    Date of addition
    6 July 2021