Partnership encourages innovation in how universities and industry collaborate

14 March 2022
Creating a ‘gold standard’ approach to the translation of health and medical research
Australian universities could be at the global forefront of research translation and commercialisation in health and medicine if barriers to collaboration are overcome and best practice models explored, according to a University of Sydney and AusBiotech report.

The University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health and University of Sydney Business School partnered with the leading Australian biotechnology industry body, AusBiotech, to explore the development of an Australian-first gold standard framework to ensure health and medical discoveries are more accessible to industry and can be fast-tracked to commercialisation opportunities.

The partnership focused on wide consultation with industry leaders coupled with benchmarking international institutions that successfully co-located with researchers, start-ups and business incubators to deliver rapid innovation through the convergence of skills, perspectives and resources. 

The result is 10 recommendations that reflect what industry and university partners would like to see for successful collaboration.

Our recommendations include:

  1.  Proof of Concept Funding: Create a national University PoC scheme to support both clinical and commercial proof of concept activities.
  2. Incentivise: Adjust standard career progression metrics for academics who are seeking to explore the commercialisation of their research.
  3. Global placements: Industry fellowships should consider global placements in order to access international R&D infrastructure and maximise learning opportunities.
  4. Upskill: Improved training and professional development opportunities for commercialisation offices within universities.
  5. Commercialisation institute: Partner with AusBiotech on an Australian Commercialisation Institute (ACI) to leverage expertise by forming strategic partnerships to access sophisticated insights into the commercial potential of university research.
  6. Secondments into industry: Secondments for professional staff involved in technology transfer within private equity/venture capital firms to understand their approach to valuing pre-clinical invention disclosures/intellectual property.
  7. Track commercialisation: Further develop metrics to assist in tracking commercialisation progress, complemented by standard term sheets outlining baseline terms and conditions to streamline the negotiation of licence, option or assignment.
  8. Integrate business know how: Additional clarity on technology transfer offices (TTO) contracts, contacts and processes and make available information on baseline terms and conditions for standard commercial agreements, and general information on approaches to IP and equity structuring. 
  9. Attract the right talent: Access the global pipeline of TTO talent by creating opportunities commensurate with those in the US and UK.
  10. Freedom to publish: Industry should ensure publication requirements can be accommodated as part of industry-funded research.

They include strategies such as growing opportunities for proof-of-concept funding and career incentives, and secondments and training and development opportunities for academics and professional staff involved in commercialisation pathways. Up-skilling industry in academic processes, and publishing needs and streamlining the way commercialisation is negotiated and tracked are also discussed.

“This helpful report reinforces the need for Australia to take a holistic and eco-system approach to research commercialisation – universities, industry, governments and consumers all have a crucial role to play in working collectively to get our best research out into the world making a positive difference,” said Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Sydney.

“Our vision is to establish a hub for the health and medical industry that transforms Australia’s research and commercialisation capabilities by developing a gold-standard in which the private sector and universities co-design and co-invest,’ said Professor Robyn Ward AM, Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor Medicine and Health at University of Sydney.

“Our universities are already contributing billions of dollars to the national economy and growing the health workforce, further collaboration between our leading researchers and prominent industry players will strengthen this and fast-track medical discoveries that could make a huge difference in people’s lives.”

The recommendations will also be incorporated into AusBiotech’s ‘Biotechnology Blueprint: A Decadal Strategy for the Australian Biotechnology Industry’ as part of their decadal plan that builds both a thriving ecosystem and develops a sovereign capability for Australia.

AusBiotech’s CEO Lorraine Chiroiu said “The Biotechnology Blueprint has clearly articulated that creating strong and effective partnerships between the Australian biotechnology industry and universities will significantly contribute to commercialising high-quality ideas, and to creating a better connected and more vibrant community.”

“This industry-academia collaboration framework is an important step towards that, as it identifies opportunities for the entire community – from bench to bedside – and aims to nurture an agile, nimble and interconnected environment that is able to consistently create and grow high-value biotech companies.”

The consultation process

The consultation included one-on-one interviews and a virtual roundtable, with total input from almost 100 high profile industry, government and academic stakeholders. Out of this grew the ten recommendations for mutually beneficial partnerships between the Australian biotech industry, universities and health sectors.  

The overwhelming majority of stakeholders represented industry, including biotechnology, pharmaceutical, consulting, investment, and venture capital.  

More information

View an overview of the ten recommendations or access the full report.

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