Effectiveness of the Nuclei of Technological Innovation (NITS) in the Transference of Technology through Patents in an Entrepreneurial University: the Case of CTIT UFMG

Mestrado Profissional em Biotecnologia e Gestão da Inovação,
Centro Universitário de Sete Lagoas,
Sete Lagoas, 35701-242,
Minas Gerais, Brazil


The concept of the Entrepreneurial University (EU) is inseparable from the science-technology-innovation tripod. The EU is defined as that which has the capacity to define a strategic direction, formulating clear academic goals, and transforming the knowledge generated in the university into economic and social values (Etzkowitz, 2003; Audy, 2006, Casado et al, 2012, and Giarola et al, 2013).

In contemporary society, the EU assumes a relevant role in development as a source of entrepreneurship, technology, innovation, critical thinking research, education, and preservation and renewal of cultural heritage (Etzkowitz and Webster, 2017), and seeks to be innovative by establishing a substantive change in its organizational structure in order to reach a new space and a new attitude in the future (Almeida et al. 2016).

The speed with which new technologies emerge leads to the rapid obsolescence of products, services, and processes. The market is essentially dynamic, and consumption is ephemeral. Even in countries like Brazil, with a domestic market of great potential, producing only for the internal market may be considered a mistake. The globalized market requires companies to continuously generate and acquire knowledge for innovation. In this sense, it is fundamental to intensify the relationship university-company, since both are primordial players in the process of knowledge generation and technological innovation (Baeta, 2017).

For Tornatzki (2012) one of the characteristics of the EU is the transference of technology to the productive sector and other organizations of society. The transference of technology between universities and companies is a key factor for technological innovation, and one of the indicators most frequently used to measure the innovative effort of an organization or country is the number of patents deposited.

Given the prominence of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in the production of knowledge and in the development of new intellectual properties in Brazil, several papers have been elaborated on the subject in the university, such as Faria (2014); Oliveira and Giroletti (2013); Roman, Thiebaut and Rios (2015), among others (Carvalho et al, 2017).

With the aim of verifying how the Coordination of Transference and Technological Innovation (Coordenadoria de Transferência e Inovação Tecnológica) of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (CTIT-UFMG) manages the process of technology transfer (TT) through patents, the present research sets out to analyze the performance of the institution since the beginning of the activities of its Technology Transfer Office, called Nucleus of Technological Innovation (Núcleo de Inovação Tecnológica – NIT).

The present work sought to describe how TT takes place within an EU by evaluating the licensing of patents granted by or deposited at the National Institute of Industrial Property (Instituto Nacional de Propriedade Industrial – INPI). The main goal of this research was to analyze, in the form of a descriptive and exploratory study, how the transfer of patents deposited via the CTIT-UFMG occurs. The descriptive approach was adopted with the aim of highlighting the research problem, thus allowing for the improvement of ideas and the description of the characteristics of a given phenomenon. We also sought to compute the number of patents deposited, granted, and transferred through the CTIT-UFMG in the period between 1996 and 2017.
The CTIT-UFMG was structured in October 1996 as part of the policy of the Ministry of Science and Technology to facilitate technological cooperation between universities and companies (Malvezzi, 2013). It was formally instituted in July 1997 and presented to the community in October of the same year, thus representing one of the first entities created to foster innovation in Brazil (Pojo, 2012). According to Araujo (2017), at that time, explicit knowledge about the patent filing process was still lacking, and it was unclear who the people responsible for filing patent applications were.

The CTIT is located in the Administrative Unit II, at the Pampulha Campus. The team has fifty collaborators and is directed by Gilberto Medeiros Ribeiro, PhD, and Full Professor at the University’s Department of Physics. It is composed of eleven sectors: the Board of Directors; Administrative; Financial; Intellectual Property (IP); Regulation of IP Rights; Technology Transfer; IT; Communication; Project; Entrepreneurship; and the Startup Incubator – INOVA UFMG, which is subdivided into two other sectors: Administrative and CTIT Consulting (Araujo, 2017). The technical staff is composed of professionals from several areas of knowledge who work in the protection of IP, in the elaboration of legal instruments, in the assessment and transfer of technology, and in the promotion of entrepreneurship (Malvezzi, 2013).

The analysis of the CTIT-UFMG showed that this sector is responsible for evaluating, filtering and following up the most promising requests, as to avoid spending time, energy, and money on inventions that will hardly be applied in industry. Additionally, we identified the areas of knowledge with the largest number of patents deposited at the INPI via CTIT-UFMG. The area with the highest number of patents deposited was Biotechnology (265). Other areas were also highlighted: Engineering (242), Pharmacy (164), and Chemistry (140).

While TT is an economic and commercial negotiation and as so must meet certain legal principles and promote the progress of the receiving company and the economic development of the country, the protection of IP covers any product of the human intellect that may be protected following a few requirements and which falls within four modalities: IP (patents, brands, industrial design, geographic indication, and unfair competition), software, copyrights, and cultivars (Liboeiro and Souza, 2017).

According to Roman et al (2015), the results of the CTIT are expressive in the protection of the technologies and their transfer to the business sector, as well as in the dissemination of an IP culture, with the licensing of technologies, strategic partnerships with other institutions, courses and events on the subject, and the creation of academic spin-offs.

In addition to TT, the CTIT has the responsibility of managing the UFMG’s incubator of companies, called INOVA UFMG, which has the mission of stimulating entrepreneurship and supporting the birth of companies with innovative projects. INOVA is a multidisciplinary business incubator, linked to the CTIT-UFMG and directly subordinated to the University’s Pro-rector of Research (Pró-reitoria de Pesquisa, PRPq). INOVA opens a public selection for the registration of new companies with wide dissemination for the whole society, not only for the academic community of UFMG.

The CTIT also carries out market studies using specific databases in order to evaluate the market potential that the technology generated by the research may offer. Thus, if a company is interested in getting hold of the technology, the contracts and negotiations are carried out in advance to make the transfer more efficient. The technologies available for the industry are listed in the UFMG Patent Bank. When a company is interested in a specific technology, additional information may be requested by means of a nondisclosure agreement with the agency. When a transfer of technology and materials takes place at the University, the latter is licensed through the payment of licenses and royalties. The received payments are equally divided among UFMG, the owner of the patent, and the inventors. The sharing among the inventors is made following prior agreement.

For the transfer process to begin, the legal department of CTIT must be contacted to follow up all the licensing process. One aspect that may be considered negative within the CTIT is that the whole process of TT is carried out by the agency, including the search and writing of patents, which entails higher costs to maintain a multidisciplinary team (Lucena and Sproesser, 2015).

We also identified the departments within UFMG that present the largest number of patents deposited at the INPI: the Department of Chemistry has deposited 222 applications, and the Department of Biochemistry and Immunology has deposited 122 applications. In 2016, UFMG was the third university with the highest number of patents granted by INPI; of the 91 patent applications filed in that year, 45 were from the area of Biotechnology.

We additionally observed a disproportion between the number of patent applications and the number of patents granted. This phenomenon may be explained by the backlog in the INPI service, where the average time between the filing of the patent and its concession is approximately ten years. Another finding refers to the impact of the generation, protection, and transfer of technologies carried out by the CTIT-UFMG, which has made the institution a national reference in IP management and shows the importance of the CTIT activities.

Within the universities, patents represent a stimulus for teaching and research, and have a role as a source of financial support. In this context, the key point is the “free transferability” of patents, which justify their role as a link between activities of research and development (R&D) and their commercial exploitation. The effects of transforming science and technology into economic values through patents differ depending on the method applied. According to Haase et al (2005), they are:

  • the granting of exclusive or non-exclusive licenses;
  • the sale of all the rights conferred by the patent;
  • the cooperation and joint ventures with companies;
  • the introduction of patents in companies based on the knowledge and technologies generated in academia (spin-offs).

It is clear that the innovation environment investigated in the present study (CTIT) is an important part of the relationship between university/company, and contributes considerably to bringing the public university closer to private companies. Noteworthy, the connection among the innovation environments within UFMG may potentiate the creation of a multidisciplinary culture of combined technological and scientific development among researchers, companies, and students.



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Published by the Triple Helix Association  –  ISSN 2281-4515


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