Frequently Asked Questions
Technology transfer is the process of transferring new knowledge and technology developed at the CSIR to third parties who can realise value from them by making them available to the market and society, for commercial gain and/or social good. Technology transfer presents an opportunity to improve South Africa’s industrial and commercial competitiveness, create employment, serve society and enhance quality of life.
A company or entrepreneur who is interested in licensing a CSIR technology should contact the CSIR Licensing & Ventures office, or the relevant R&D Outcomes Manager in the unit of interest. We will then be able to provide the potential licensee with information about the technology; where necessary under a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Once it has been established that a licensing agreement could be mutually beneficial to the parties, licence negotiations will begin in earnest – the first milestone being a non-binding term sheet.
A further evaluation period may be required by one or both parties – due diligence of the potential licensee by the CSIR; evaluation of the technology by the potential licensee for a set period of time to determine its viability and value to the company and so forth. The CSIR may charge a fee for granting the company the right to exercise their option to license the technology after expiry of the option period.
The CSIR has to obtain the necessary approvals at CSIR Executive level (in accordance with the CSIR Approval Framework) before a licence agreement can be signed and executed.
The CSIR typically negotiates an upfront licence fee, milestone payments and royalties. Each deal is structured and negotiated for that particular opportunity. The CSIR is driven by the goal to amplify use, uptake and the socio-economic impact of public sector R&D rather than purely financial returns.
The CSIR Commercialisation Framework serves as a guideline on how we prefer to commercialise. However, every single transaction / deal is different and the terms and conditions will vary depending on the technology being licensed. You are welcome to contact us to discuss specific opportunities in more detail.
A key decision is whether to license a technology on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis. Where technology is licensed at an early (embryonic) stage, requiring further investment from a licensee to develop a market-ready product (which is frequently the case with CSIR technologies), exclusive rights might be required to induce the licensee to dedicate resources, time and effort to commercialise the technology.
However, where feasible, non-exclusive licensing is promoted as a preferred option (which might typically be in the case of a ‘ready-to-use’ or ‘off-the-shelf’ technology), as this could facilitate wider use of the technology.
At the CSIR, we assess which mechanism is likely to be most effective in bringing the technology to market and which will best promote the use of the technology in the public interest, on a case-by-case basis. Where exclusive licences are granted, this is generally on the condition that the licensee undertakes to practise the licensed invention diligently, encouraged through the inclusion of contractual terms such as minimum payments, loss of exclusivity and achievement of milestones. By delineating specific fields of use or territories in an exclusive licence agreement, we are also able to increase the licensing opportunities overall.
Successful technology transfer contributes towards:
- Creating sustainable technology-based jobs in the South African economy.
- Promoting economic development and the competitiveness of the South African industry.
- Generating a return on the CSIR’s R&D investment which can be ploughed back into further R&D, and benefit incentives for inventors.
The CSIR’s measures of technology transfer success include:
- Number of licence agreements executed
- Number of new companies formed
- Revenue from licence fees/royalties and equity investments
These include invention/technology disclosures, protecting the invention/technology (by e.g. patents and trademarks), valuation of the technology/invention, publication of scientific research findings, and licensing the rights to inventions and/or technologies to industry to convert these into products and services that become readily available to the market.