The Cracow University of Technology’s Technology Transfer Centre is involved in much more than its name suggests. Its field of interest extends to the whole of southern Poland and it is also a member of the European network of Innovation Relay Centres (IRCs).
Tomasz Maczuga, Director of the Technology Transfer Centre of the Cracow University of Technology.
"We are one of the most important of Poland’s ten regional contact points, attracting about 15 000 participants a year to the various initiatives organised to publicise the European programmes,” explains Tomasz Maczuga, Director of the Technology Transfer Centre.
The centre was founded in 2000 following the merger of two structures: the regional contact point for European research programmes and the South Poland Innovation Relay Centre (IRC). As such, it is a member of the network of around 70 European centres that are seeking to match supply with demand in the field of technologies – for licence acquisition, joint developments, etc. – and to federate technology transfers in Europe. This engineer, who heads a team of 15 researchers, believes that combining two missions within a single centre “is an excellent thing, because companies seeking European co-operation are often the same ones that need technology transfers.”
Making contact… Those who come to the centre are public players in the research and development sector or SMEs in need of technology. “Those who use our services are active in information, automation and robotics technologies and, to a lesser extent, environmental engineering. We also have some clients in the plastics sector. Biotechnologies are not yet very developed.”
The first of the services the centre offers is to facilitate grassroots access to the IRC, which has more than 2 000 technology offers. Three specialised lawyers offer advice on intellectual property and the centre also runs a number of training courses – in particular, since 2001, a very successful course which aims to ensure that participants are able to make effective use of Cordis, the European Union’s website. “Finally, we help our clients to find partners or contacts for their European projects. In this capacity, we act as a very important go-between that enables many business managers to meet new partners with whom they are very often able to do business.”
An enterprising culture And what about the universities? In a country reputed for the quality of its engineers, do they concern themselves with the applications of their research? “There is a joke you often hear around here that sums up the situation. Do you know why Polish universities do not have the spirit of enterprise? Because the university professors have it…” In other words, although the universities are not as flexible as they could be, this is more than compensated for by the initiatives taken by their staff. The latter certainly scored some notable successes, such as Comarch, an information technology services company founded by a professor at the Academy of Mines and Metallurgy, which now has 800 employees.
“More generally, the question of technology transfer is now cultural more than legal or political. We have the necessary legislation and institutions, but progress must still be made on the mentality front,” continues Tomasz Maczuga. “During the 40 years of the Socialist regime, we were not used to thinking in terms of ownership. So it takes a certain time for Polish researchers to adapt and to think in terms of patents, confidentiality agreements and intellectual property. This is simply because they do not necessarily have the reflex action of asking who owns the fruits of their research.”
Cracow’s Faculty of Biotechnology is the only university institution among the nine Polish Centres of Excellence approved following the Commission’s first call for proposals in 1999. Occupying brand new premises in south-west Cracow, the Faculty is now financially independent of Jagellion ...
Cracow’s Faculty of Biotechnology is the only university institution among the nine Polish Centres of Excellence approved following the Commission’s first call for proposals in 1999. Occupying brand new premises in south-west Cracow, the Faculty is now financially independent of Jagellion University, one of Poland’s oldest and most prestigious institutes of higher education. It employs 68 professors and has some 6 000 students enrolled on its biophysics and biotechnology courses. It also has a postgraduate school with 65 students undertaking research in the laboratories, half of them under the Erasmus programme. “A few years ago, 80% of our young doctoral students went abroad. Today, this has fallen to 60%,” says the biophysicist Kazimierz Stzalka, who is Dean of the Faculty. He is currently considering setting up a business incubator for new companies as a means of stimulating Poland’s embryonic biotechnology industry.