In 2000, the TTO of the university Paris Sud 11 (i.e the before mentioned SAIC) was not yet created and the Scientific Council of the university was looking for a way to boost the valorization of research.
What was the context?
Wider context of the Law on Innovation & research (12/07/1999), which expressed the will of the government to promote the transfer of public research to industry and the creation of innovative companies.
Why is it still organised?
There is a proper TTO in the university since 2003, but the award was maintained because of the positive side effects.
Steady number of applications (15 to 20 per year).
9 award winners out of 26 have created a start-up.
Other awards of this type have been launched since 2000, showing the added-value of the concept (“Innovation of the year” of Ecole Polytechnique/ CNRS, “Valorization award” of IN2P3/CNRS, “Innovation award’ of the city of Paris...).
Several winners of the University award have later won a national competition launched by the Ministry of Research to support the creation of companies of innovative technologies (“Concours national d’aide à la création d’entreprises de technologies innovantes”, since1999).
Why would we recommend such an approach: the reaction of the research community is very positive and the award is getting a wider recognition in academic circles. Technology transfer officers of the university now get calls from researchers, to have information about the award before the launch.
Recommendations : for maximum impact, the top management of the research organisation needs to be involved (attendance at ceremony, press release to partners...)
Impact on future performance : good tool to advertise technology transfer internally, among the others services and the community of researchers.
Enhanced detection: there were a few cases where researchers have proposed projects to the Valorization award, that the technology transfer officers were not acquainted with. The award is a way to complement the activity of the TTO, and check for any “missed” projects with technology transfer potential.
Good institutional media coverage : Because several labs of the university are co-managed by other research organisations, information related to the award was well relayed in the other research institutions (list of winners, timeline of the calendar of the competition).
Worse than expected?
Questions on eligibility : some interrogations arise with specific cases, which are more frequent than expected. One of the reason is the co-management of the labs, which generates a multitude of situation for the researcher and the laboratory involved in one application (case of the applicant is an employee of the university, working in a lab that is owned by another research organisation).
Another example was the application of an ex post-doc, while he was unemployed at the time and had no relation with his former lab. The winning projects are usually supported by the TTO (maturation phase, protection of the IP) and here, a follow-up was not possible. In the end, this application was not selected by the jury.
Will the best practice be continued/changed/adapted?
When the Scientific Council of the university decided to create the award, there was a discussion about whether it should address innovative technologies not transferred yet or start-ups/patents.Finally, the Council chose the first option because they deemed it was not the role of the university to evaluate the success of a start-up and there would be higher number of potential candidates. The discussion reappeared in 2006/2007 but the Council came to the same conclusion.
Some changes have been introduced in the last 8 years :
2 steps application process instead of 1 step : easier for the TTO to contact in advance the appropriate experts, according to the scientific themes of the applications.
Since 2008, possibility for 1 of the 3 winners each year to receive 40 000€ to support the maturation of the project (not automatic though, principle of “drawing right”)
Progressive shift in the composition of the jury : from industrial experts to representatives of “institutional “organisations (local incubator, national agency for innovation) to avoid conflict of interest.
Other changes may be introduced in the future, if the stakeholders feel there would be an improvement.
If so, in what way will it be continued/changed/adapted?
Rules about eligibility of the project leader:
The university is considering either to request that project leaders are employed by the university (instead of “working in a laboratory linked to the university” in the current regulation) or to co-finance the award with the research institutions that co-manage the laboratories (CNRS, INSERM...) to avoid problems related to the eligibility of the project leader.
Time interval between 2 editions of the award:
The university will probably extend the time interval between 2 editions of the Valorization award from 12 to 18 months. The idea is to ensure a high number of proposals for every edition of the award. Indeed, a lot of applications were submitted on the first editions of the award because the initial pool of eligible projects was large. Since the award is organised on a regular basis for several years, 18 months seems the appropriate amount of time for the “reconstitution” of the pool.
… do different? Based on the last edition, nothing really
… improve? See changes introduced (slide 15)
… recommend to others?
A lot of resources are required to carry out the contest and award ceremony (scientific & technical, administrative staff, communication, top management). It is crucial to ensure the involvement of all parties before starting the process.
Anticipate : launching an award takes time and can not be decided at the last minute. Practical organizational matters must be addressed early, while the decision process can be quick if there is a general agreement among the stakeholders. In 2000, the award ceremony was organised 4 to 5 months after the decision of the scientific council to create the award.