IP & Tech Transfer Survey

Key results

In early 2017, the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) worked toward the completion of a research partnership project involving the Department of Science and Technology (DST, now DSI), the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), and the Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA).

The South African National Survey of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer in Publicly Funded Research Institutions: Inaugural Baseline Study (2008-2014) › was launched at the Innovation Hub on 12 April 2017.

“This inaugural survey is an important addition to a portfolio of instruments that are used in assessing the performance of the South African National System of Innovation (NSI),” wrote former science and technology minister, Naledi Pandor, in her preface to the report.

“The survey helps to define, in practical terms, specific indicators that government and its stakeholders, including the broader community of technology transfer practitioners, can use to measure the capacity, outputs and targeted outcomes and ultimately impacts of publicly funded R&D.”

The IP&TT survey was embarked on to establish a number of baseline indicators that are required to track overall activity in Intellectual Property (IP) management and Technology Transfer (TT).

Questionnaires were sent to all ‘institutions’ as defined in the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act (IPR Act), which are the 23 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the 10 Schedule 1 institutions or Science Councils (SCs).

Valid responses were obtained from 24 institutions.

Of these, 23 indicated that they have either established a dedicated office of technology transfer (OTT), have dedicated TT individuals or are members of a regional office. 

Management of technologies, patent families, trade mark families, registered design families and new patent applications filed increased more rapidly than the increase in research expenditure, which indicates acceleration of these activities relative to research expenditure.

On average, 100 new technologies were added annually between 2011 and 2014 to the portfolio managed by respondent institutions.

There has been a quadrupling in the actual number of licences executed per year in the period. Of significance is that more than 88% of this revenue accrued consistently each year to the same four institutions that have well-established TTFs.

The majority of IP transactions yielded less than R100 000 per year. In total, 45 start-up companies were formed over the period to commercialise the institutions’ technology, 73% of which were based on publicly funded IP. 

Project background

One aspect that research has identified as being key to unlocking the economic benefit of innovation is the understanding of technology transfer and commercialisation of intellectual property (IP).

The availability of reliable and consistent information of these STI indicators is critical for policy development and implementation for a developing country like South Africa. 

Annually, the government invests substantial amounts of resources into R&D. During the 2012/13 financial period, research activity largely funded by the South African government amounted to 0.76 % of gross domestic product (GDP). 

State funding assists in driving the national innovation agenda and addresses the areas that are not adequately funded through private sources.

An expectation of government exists that such investments will earn benefits for the country through use of IP for commercial outcomes and for supporting socio-economic development and advancement.

The results of this survey will provide up-to-date information on the state of such IP creation and technology transfer activities nationally, as well as the growth or decline of activities.

A (limited) measure of the impact socio-economically will be quantified and serve as a means of assessing government policy directly.

The impact that government policies around technology transfer have had may also be possibly assessed using the data obtained from the survey.

The objectives of the South African Survey of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer at Publically Funded Research Institutions are:

  • To establish a baseline of data on select indicators from 2008 to 2014, in order to measure recent and current capacity and activities of Offices of Technology Transfer (OTT’s) at publicly financed research institutions and the extent of Technology transfer (TT) activities taking place at such institutions;
  • To develop a time series of standard indicators that will support evaluation of the impact of policies, and to enable comparison over time and with other countries;
  • To generate a survey instrument that will annually record the most significant indicators required to track overall activity in TT at institutions, monitor the progress made in terms of creating capacity within institutions to perform TT, document the outputs and outcomes created through, for example, the licensing of technology and/or creation of spinoff companies and monitor the progress made in this regard; and
  • To provide an analysis of overall activity in TT, and draw learning experiences that can inform policy and guide planning at OTTs, their host institutions, the NIPMO, the DST and other stakeholders operating within the National System of Innovation.

The project will include a survey of publically funded research institutions: the list of respondents is limited to those that fall within the definition of “institution” as per the IPR-PFRD Act.

These are the higher education institutions and science councils essentially.

The inaugural baseline study will cover the seven reference periods of 2008 to 2014 inclusive. 

The data that will be sourced via this survey instrument has been divided into 3 categories, one for general institutional  information, and the other two along the lines of a systems framework, namely (A) Institutional Context; (B) Activities and Inputs; and (C) Outputs, Outcomes and Impacts.

The survey results will be included in a project report, and policy briefs using this data will be used to further inform policymakers.