Leap of faith, big impact
By John Molloy
In 1985, when the Ontario government invested $300,000 in technology commercialization at Queen’s University, who knew what the impact would be?
For starters, that small investment convinced the university that there was value in commercializing publicly funded research, and so in 1987, Queen’s formally established its office of technology transfer, PARTEQ Innovations.
It was a daring move at the time. Today, the importance of advancing innovative research discoveries to the market is a given. Governments, industry and institutions around the world trumpet the commercial potential of discovery research, and in finding ways to transform that research into impacts.
But a quarter-century ago, the climate for research commercialization was not so receptive, and few Canadian universities had the desire or wherewithal to engage in it.
We are talking about a time when laptops hadn’t yet been invented. The biotechnology revolution had barely begun, and a strange new world called the Internet had just registered its first dot.com name!
Fortunately, Queen’s had the vision and the courage to support a then-radical approach to translating its researchers’ discoveries into beneficial products and processes. Instead of debating the merits of whether to commercialize, Queen’s and PARTEQ focused on how.
Today, PARTEQ’s not-for-profit, semi-autonomous, ‘do what it takes’ entrepreneurial model, with its focus on having the right people with the right expertise and networks, has enabled us to move many discoveries to market, with many positive impacts – job creation, increased competitiveness, better quality of life, a cleaner environment, and many more.
But we haven’t done it alone. Our provincial government has also been visionary, providing programs and funding over the past six years that have enabled us to strengthen our team and intensify our efforts. It has also helped us to explore an exciting new, national, collaborative model for technology commercialization – a model we hope to emulate as we kick off our next quarter-century.
Oh, and that $300K investment? Over the past 25 years, more than $30 million has been returned to Queen’s and its inventors from PARTEQ’s activities. More than 45 companies have been created, raising in excess of $1.2 billion in investment, more than 8,000 person-years of employment have been created, and products for use by millions of people, worldwide.
A small investment, a leap of faith, and a big impact – it’s a story we hope to continue over the next 25 years!
John Molloy is President and CEO of PARTEQ Innovations, and a leading Canadian voice on the value of commercializing taxpayer-funded research discoveries.