Intellectual Property Management at MIT - By : Lotfi Chouanine,

Intellectual Property Management at MIT

Lotfi Chouanine
Lotfi Chouanine Author profile
Lotfi Chouanine is a research advisor at ÉTS. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Ibaraki (Japan), an MBA from UQÀM (Canada) and a Master’s degree from the University of Volgograd (Russia).

Christopher Noble of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) gave a lecture at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) in Montreal on Thursday, June 8, 2017, in which he explained how MIT manages intellectual property and entrepreneurship. He is a technology licensing officer responsible for MIT’s energy technology and for supporting some of MIT’s key international partnerships. A Montreal native, he was pleased to accept the conference offer made by Lotfi Chouanine, a research advisor at the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) in Montreal.

From this conference, we propose a series of four articles to clarify:

  1. How MIT encourages students and faculty to start businesses;
  2. Its approach to patents and the management of intellectual property;
  3. Its intellectual property (IP) policy;
  4. How MIT manage to create business ties between large companies and start-up companies.

The first article in this series describes how MIT encourages students and professors to start new businesses following the example of LiquiGlide Inc., established in 2017. In this second article, the speaker outlined the process of managing intellectual property at MIT using the technology transfer cycle described below.


Technology Transfer Cycle


This graph shows the 8 stages of a technology transfer cycle. The cycle may not require all 8 steps, and the steps can also be carried out simultaneously. The speaker explained management approaches used by Technology Licensing Officers with regard to the technology transfer cycle.


Academic research and development can produce technological inventions—new products or services not yet brought to market with a potential to become technological innovations and commercialize inventions.

MIT’s Researchers file an Invention Disclosure Form with the University’s Technology Licensing Office (TLO). Technology Licensing Officers assess the disclosure in order to protect and possibly patent the disclosed invention if the preliminary patentability and market studies are positive.

After filing a patent application, the protected technology is proposed to targeted organizations.

Organizations that have given funding to university research have priority in acquiring a license to market the patented invention.

One-third of the patented technologies are licensed under license to start-up companies created by MIT students.

As a result, the collaboration between the University and the companies creates economic growth.

 Risks Associated With Academic Research

Risks associated with academic research and development are generally much higher than in the private sector:

  • Academic research will often focus on breakthrough innovationswith new technological approaches, while industrial research often involves incremental innovations.
  • University research results are not guaranteed; some fail or do not achieve the expected returns.

When a technology is developed, other risk factors may arise:

  • Given the duration of the projects, the market for the developed technology may no longer exist at the end of a research project;
  • Obtaining a patent for a developed technology (for example, computer technology) takes time and effort;
  • Bringing university technology to market is sometimes a matter of chance and timing;
  • University breakthrough technologies may not be of interest to organizations;
  • Transferring a technology to a start-up company is done before the business is fully set up [1]. In the United States, the failure rate of start-up companies after 4 years is 44%. As indicated in the table below, this rate varies according to the type of technologies that are created:

Next Article

In the third article in this series, the speaker describes the importance of the university’s role in technology transfer. For the majority of American universities, commercializing technologies does not generate income. In the case of MIT, the role of the technology transfer department is very important: it makes the cycle of technology transfer more efficient.

Lotfi Chouanine

Author's profile

Lotfi Chouanine is a research advisor at ÉTS. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Ibaraki (Japan), an MBA from UQÀM (Canada) and a Master’s degree from the University of Volgograd (Russia).

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