ERCIM News No.24 - January 1996

ERCIM members policy on Spin-off Companies and Technology Transfer


An important function of CCLRC is to encourage involvement in and exploitation of its core programme by the private industry sector. The motive is primarily to enhance the opportunities for technology transfer from research into wealth creating industry. CCLRC seeks to do this by promotion and advertisement of the activities of its `research services' units which provide a clean, commercial interface between CCLRC and industry. In 1994 the CCLRC had contracts or agreements with over 100 commercial companies covering the use of facilities and other commercial and collaborative undertakings. Recently, opportunities for involvement, especially by SMEs, in the activities of CCLRC have been expanded by the creation of an Associates `Club', offering even easier access to CCLRC's facilities and expertise.


The Italian National Research Council is the most important institution in Italy for state funded research. It finances and promotes research activities both directly in its own institutes and centres and by means of contracts and contrbutions to external institutions. As CNR is a non profit making organisation it cannot be directly responsible for the creation of spin-off companies but has a strong commitment towards the promotion of industrial development. In the IT sector, CNR is fully aware that the present and future industrial competitiveness of Italy is largely dependent on the competitveness of its IT community. A concerted effort is thus being made towards the setting up of collaborative R & D activities between CNR, academia and industry, with particular attention being given to SME's. The intention is to focus future collaborations on a joint industrial exploitation of the results.


CWI CWI recognizes the fact that mobility of people is the most effective way of knowledge transfer and, hence, stimulates its employees to start their own business. Particular reasons include: • it creates new, high-quality employment • knowledge generated within CWI is directly applied in practice • the new entrepreneur is a potential partner, taking care of the part of the development trajectory not belonging to CWI's mission (implementation, marketing, follow-up and support), whereas CWI supplies the more fundamental knowledge.


The Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH) has been established as a research center monitored by the Greek Ministry of Industry, Energy and Technology with two primary objectives: 1) To conduct high quality research in leading edge scientific and technological disciplines, and 2) To provide the means for linking its R&D effort with the needs of Greek industry and public administration in order to partially fund its own R&D activities and to contribute toward increased productivity of both the public and the private sectors of the local and national economy. In pursuing the second objective, FORTH is mandated to market its products and services, alone or through its participation in subsidiary and spin-off companies in Greece and abroad. In addition, FORTH has established Science and Technology Parks at its facilities in Heraklion, Thessaloniki and Patras, in order to have direct communication channels with certain companies that share common interests with one or more of the FORTH Institutes, thus enabling a mutually beneficial transfer of technological know-how, stimulating innovation, and identifying potential markets for its R&D results and services. Todate, several spin-offs have been created and are currently operating out of the Science and Technology Park of Crete (STEP-C), one being the company that manages STEP-C itself.


The German National Research Center for Computer Science, GMD provides valuable support to its spin-off companies, by providing for example access to GMD infrastructure, joint workshops and similar ventures.Currently, GMD has generated 10 spin-off companies. Their activities are mainly focused on the development of software for different application areas such as telecommunication, multimedia, tools for VLSI system design, CAD for architects, and software services for the government



INRIA has, over the last 10 years established efficient methods for making the results of research known on a wide scale and distributing these results to the scientific and industrial community. INRIA has for a number of years encouraged the creation of high tech companies. These companies retain close ties with research as their staff is largely made up of former researchers and their strategy is mainly directed towards marketing novel products. Whether these companies are subsidiaries or spin-offs, they share the common aim of transferring, developing and marketing know how and prototypes orignating from INRIA.


SINTEF will try to commercialize any "idea", "device", software or process that seems to have a potential as a business idea for a new or an existing company. Sintef has a special section, Nyfotek, especially established to commercialize results from research projects. When an "idea" (a tentative hardware product, a software program, new production process, etc) is presented for Nyfotek for consideration, Nyfotek will: • do a market research to assess the potential • check any patents that may be "in the way" or eventually get the "idea" patented. • do a market research to see if the "idea" can be implemented or produced by an existing company or rather be the beginning of a new company • assist the founders of a new company in getting financial support from appropriate public sources Nyfotek works on a "no cure no pay" basis. Only if the a new company is successful will Nyfotek charge it for their services. Nyfotek is primarily aimed at helping SINTEF scientists to start their own businesses.


As early as 1987 SZTAKI started to establish spin-off companies, partly due to the easing of the COCOM restrictions (in-home hardware activities had to be reduced significantly). During the last 8-10 years nearly a dozen of spin-off companies came to existence around the institute, some of them with financial participation of SZTAKI, while the rest just sharing the premises. The scope of activities of these companies incorporates computer network developments, computer aided design, robotics, data base services, and many other field related to IT.


VTT supports the creation of new technology-based enterprises and spin-off companies; especially the generation of high-technology SMEs. Ideas for starting up new entrepreneurship are constantly sought for within the sphere of VTT. The nine research institutes of VTT are encouraged to continue paying attention to generating companies on basis of research results. Technology centres located near to where VTT is located, provide these companies with good substrate mediums. Approximately 60 spin-off companies have been established to this date.

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