Technology Transfer and RRI: Connecting science with society

Technology transfer and RRI: Connecting science with society

Editorial Team RRI

Moving discoveries between domains is not easy. No matter how noble your cause, several problems can arise in real-life tech-transfer situations. At a workshop in at the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), STARBIOS2 members had the opportunity to share and gain new insights on the connection between successful technology transfer and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI).

During the workshop, STARBIOS2’s Vittorio Colizzi emphasized the value of fostering a culture of RRI in your institution and connecting science with society. Tech-transfer can be made easier by connecting research to the local community, making results open access, ensuring gender equality in the research process and content, using ethical procedures, and promoting science education.

To do implement RRI in your institution, you need to understand and describe your institution’s context. Every bioscience institution is different, and the first step towards creating an action plan for responsible research and innovation is contextualization. Accepting that context is next, followed by formalising the goals you set out to achieve in this context. Identifying obstacles and mobilizing the action plan is next.

Funders can be hesitant to support research that will not have an impact in their local community. Another obstacle is the lack of validated data that a translational core is able to provide (e.g. testing in small animal models). Public opinion can also hinder technology transfer, but persistence is key when delivering valuable technology to a resistant society. Technology transfer is an essential part of bioscience. Sorting out potential conflicts of interest early in the process is central.

Giving community members a voice is important, so that they can weigh in on what makes an effective and successful research collaboration. There is a need for communication strategies to aid the recruitment of research participants, and for listening to community members’ views on issues related to community-based participatory research.

Universities are currently expanding their mission to improve the region’s economic development by educating and training the workforce, by helping government solve complex problems, by creating new enterprises, and by collecting and disseminating information about the local economic ecosystem. UMB offers a course to post-grad students, educating the students on Baltimore’s innovation ecosystem and providing them with tools to make an impact on it.

Public engagement is easier with stakeholder networks in place, and when including junior researchers in the process. With limited resources, much bureaucratic red tape, and insufficient incentives, it becomes more difficult.

Providing better access to STEM education and introduce students to professionals in the health sciences to disadvantaged communities is important, but difficult. Through neighbourhood visits, researchers get a better idea of what their local community, and others like it, needs. It is vital to not only engage the community when you want to start a clinical trial, but to make efforts to visit neighbours and listen to people expressing their views. This is an essential step in (re)building society’s trust in science. And in preparing the ground for successful technology transfer.

Anna Holm


Vittorio Colizzi, MD PhD, Professor and Director of the University of Rome – STARBIOS2

Andrea Declich, MSc, social scientists – STARBIOS2

Claire Fraser, PhD, Director of UMB’s Institute of Genome Sciences and President-Elect for AAAS

Jim Kaper, PhD, Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and University of Maryland, School of Medicine’s (UMSOM) Vice Dean for Academic Affairs

Phil Robilotto, DO MBA, Associate Vice President of ORD and the head of Technology Transfer (now UM Ventures, Baltimore)

Stephen Davis, MBBS FRCP FACE MACP, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at UMSOM, and Vice President of Clinical and Translational Science at UMB, and Director of the Institute of Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR)

Meriem Gaval-Cruz, PhD, liaison between ICTR and the UMB Office of Technology Transfer

Rana Quraishi, PhD is the Director of New Ventures and teaches UMB’s post-graduate course in Entrepreneurship

Maria S Salvato, PhD, professor at UMB’s Institute of Human Virology

Karen Matthews, DM MPA, UMB’s Director of Strategic Planning and Assessment

Lori Edwards, DrPH RN MPH, Senior Director of the Center for Global Education Initiatives

Kelly Quinn, PhD, Senior Manager in the Office of Community Engagement

Robin Saunders, EdD, Executive Director of the CURE Scholars Program on UMB campus

Jim Hughes, MBA UMB Vice President, Director of UM Ventures and Chief Enterprise and Development Officer for UMB