Bridging Academic Inventors – TTO Managers Schism: The Lean Canvas for Invention

(Paper presented at the Second International Triple Helix Summit in Dubai 2018)

Interview with the Author

Professor Dr Arabella Bhutto

Co-Director, MUISTD, MUET

*email address protected*



Professor Dr Cynthia Furse, Vice President Research, University of Utah

Paul Corson, Director, Entrepreneurship, TVC, University of Utah


Interview prepared by
Dr Irina Pavlova
TH Russian Chapter
*email address protected*
Photos for the interview were provided by Arabella Bhutto

Irina: Arabella, could you, please, elaborate a little about the story behind your research?

Professor Henry Etzkowitz with Professor Dr Arabella Bhutto

Arabella:  The story of my research begins after a longitudinal study conducted through a long sitting with the managers of the technology transfer office (TTO) to understand their problems at the time when they interact with scientists and inventors after disclosures of their new inventions to the University TTO.  The responsibility of the university TTO is to make it possible for the university technology to reach the market place.  For this task it is highly desirable that a technology which is disclosed to the TTO must have a novelty feature and market viability.

Irina: How do you think it is possible to bridge the gap between academic researchers and managers of innovation infrastructure?

Arabella:  Unfortunately, when scientists come up with inventions, they do not consider factors related to market viability as these terms are never taught to scientists in their curricula.

Therefore, most often technologies which are invented after huge spending grants do not reach to market, and the efforts of scientist and TTO managers to bring technology to the market fail.  In order to meet this issue a mechanism termed the Lean Canvas for Invention (LCI), was designed which may enable scientists to learn about and incorporate all these important factors at the earlier level of their research process.  This will ultimately help inventions to reach their market places.  The LCI and its supportive course is developed to teach as part of STEM curricula in order to facilitate the journey of invention from lab to market.



Irina: What are the key factors that, in your opinion, drive and hinder cooperation of TH actors?

Arabella: One of studies conducted by me in the context of Pakistan highlights few of the important factors which hinder this cooperation. The first problem is of trust deficit between TH actors. They do not talk similar language and knowledge asymmetries between them cause delays and sometimes failure. There is missing established mechanism which may perform efficiently to answer the question of “how to establish a cooperation?”. The LCI tool and it associated course is in fact designed to function as a mechanism to answer the question of “how?”.

Irina: What could drive engagement of different institutional actors in TH collaboration in specific national and regional settings? How to make TH actors more responsible for TH collaboration engagement on regional level? Could you provide some examples from your own experience?

Arabella: The science and technology policy of the state must be clear in terms of key performance indicators of all actors and their career progress should be judged based on those indicators which force them to interact more and avoid working in silos. Their dependency on each other can strengthen TH collaboration. For example, if industry is given some relief of taxation for working on advance technologies in collaboration with university then industry may feel motivated to work in collaboration. Similarly, if promotion of a university scientist is dependent on number of joint research projects with industry then it may also work as motivation for them.

Irina: Arabella, what are the challenges that, in your opinion, bring together Triple Helix (TH) actors to address them and to take shared action?

Arabella:  A policy push can do that.  Government may raise societal issues having a dire need of research for solving social problems.  All research which is funded by government must have its application side, and continuation in grants must be supported with evidence of solving a real-world problem.  Overall the LCI mechanism is pushing scientist to answer three major questions: 1) what social problem this research can solve; 2) why it is important to solve this problem; and 3) how this problem can be solved with the involvement of all stakeholders.  This can utilize the potential of bringing TH actors together.

Irina: Dear Arabella, thank you very much for your answers and evidence on TH actors’ collaboration from your study.  We would like to welcome your further intellectual contribution to TH studies and looking forward to your engagement in Triple Helix Association’s activities, including your participation in the next international Triple Helix conference in Cape Town!




Published by the Triple Helix Association  –  ISSN 2281-4515

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