When Natalie Chapman explains her job title – she’s a commercialisation manager – she’s used to getting mostly blank looks. Not many people, it seems, knows what this in-demand role actually is.
These specialists, sometimes known as technology transfer managers, help Australian researchers and inventors take their new technologies, products and services to market.
“There are a lot of people who are brilliant at inventing or researching but don’t know how to commercially assess [their new technology] to determine if there are customers who will want it, or to work out how to educate the market about it,” says Chapman, managing director of commercialisation firm gemaker.
Technology transfer or commercialisation managers can also help researchers or inventors connect with investors, or assist with marketing and business development new technologies. They are now found in every university and most research organisations including ANSTO (the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation), CSIRO and medical research organisations.
While there are approximately 350 to 400 people doing this role in Australia, Chapman says there is demand for more.
“Not many people have the combined science, marketing and commercialisation backgrounds required,” she says.
Chapman says the role is often of interest to students in STEM careers who don’t see their future at a laboratory bench.
“They are fascinated by this and want to know how to get into it because it’s really exciting to be at the forefront of new technologies,” she says.
Chapman’s own career involved a decade working as a technology transfer professional at ANSTO before she decided to go into business offering the service privately. She says while we are starting to see more Australian scientists cross-trained for the role, there is more to be done.
“Australia’s research performance is great but we need to improve our translation of that research to the commercial world.”
To succeed in the role, Chapman says personal attributes such as being flexible, having a ”can do” attitude, and having the capacity to work collaboratively to “make things happen” are all advantageous.
“You also need to be able to digest or process large volumes of information and distil what’s needed,” she says. In this way, the skills are somewhat entrepreneurial: “A good commercialisation manager will have the ability to connect the dots quickly to identify and be able to act on opportunities.”
Chapman sees working in the field as a solid bet. “Being able to deal with innovation and knowing how to get it out the door is fantastic. These aren’t careers you can replace.”
STUDY: A double degree pairing a science, engineering or IT qualification with a business qualification is a good starting point for this career. “It helps you to understand the language from both ends,” Chapman says.
Many universities now offer technology transfer or commercialisation postgraduate degrees, either graduate certificates or a master’s degree.
“Courses covering intellectual property, the innovation and commercialisation process as well as finance, sales and marketing are the best,” says Chapman.
SKILLS: It’s easy to move between research organisations and industry positions, or, depending on your speciality (perhaps intellectual property or sales) you can leave the field for a specialist role.
“Having technical and business together is an awesome combination for careers now and careers into the future,” says Chapman.
TIPS: The industry has its own professional association, called Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia.
Source: Thanks smh.com