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Getting university IP to market: How Canada falls short

This is the 27th article in a continuing series that examines the state of the ecosystem necessary to successfully bring technology to market. Based on dozens of interviews with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, business leaders, academics, tech-transfer experts and policy makers, this series looks at what is working and what can be improved in the go-to-market ecosystem in the United States, Canada and Britain. We invite your feedback.

By Francis Moran and Leo Valiquette

The Canadian university system costs about $25 billion a year. The total income for all Canadian universities from licensing their intellectual property is around $50 million. Subtract the cost of managing that IP and you’re left with a net income of only $15 million. Getting technology to market is clearly not a big income stream for the typical Canadian university.

Those numbers come from The Way Ahead, Meeting Canada’s Productivity Challenge, by Tom Brzustowski, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management. While the book is a few years old, the overall trend illustrated by those numbers hasn’t changed. However, Brzustowski also quotes one of our past contributors, Doyletech’s Denzil Doyle, who puts these numbers in their proper context. According to Doyle, the IP income to universities represents only 2.5 percent of the new sales generated by products based on it. Do that math and you arrive at $2 billion — $2 billion in annual sales for the Canadian economy. That isn’t an insignificant sum.

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