Defining the TT/KE/KT Profession
The idea that knowledge-based organisations produce ideas or technologies that have an effect on society is recognised by most modern industrialised countries. The funding of science and R&D is therefore often connected to professionally-led processes to encourage economic or social impact. The formal management of this process is variously referred to as Technology Transfer, Knowledge Exchange, Knowledge Transfer, Utilisation or Mobilisation of knowledge.
This process dates back at least 40 years to early definitions by the UN. Over this period, professional practitioners have developed increasingly rigorous approaches and training programmes to ensure consistency and high quality amongst the staff undertaking these roles. Over the past decade, the quality of these has become increasingly recognised through a global certification activity, RTTP, led by the global Alliance of Technology Transfer Professionals, which brings together separate national or continent-wide associations of professionals.
However, there was no formal definition of the Profession. Without such a definition, it was increasingly challenging to certify that individuals or training courses have met the standards required, particularly when the skills required of TT/KE/KT professionals are expanding constantly.
The fundamental difficulty is to pitch a definition at the right level to ensure inclusion of relevant professionals and yet to be precise and distinct. Take for example the healthcare sector, which has separate professions for physicians and nurses.
Each profession encompasses a large breadth and depth ranging from the general – physicians – to specialists like surgeons and niche specialists like cancer consultants.
Knowledge exchange/technology transfer has a similar spread, from people who create knowledge in partnership with users (academics, industrial scientists) to those who build partnerships and industry engagement and those who ensure that the knowledge is put to use in society.
Some work in commercial contexts through licensing or business formation and others work with charities, social innovation, or drive student enterprise.
Some partner with companies to devise new products or processes and others develop new policies for governments or NGOs.
The community also includes people who enable and maintain ecosystems, manage information and knowledge, and provide ‘back-office’ functions.
Currently, some of the characteristics of our profession are recognised by RTTP while some are not. The types of roles undertaken by people in TT/KE/KT roles are listed here. Over time, these roles will change. We believe the profession should be defined by its purpose and not just by the things that the people working in it currently do.
To respond to this challenge ATTP has adopted a single definition of the profession. ATTP’s partnership of national associations of TT/KE/KT gives it a unique global view that will help uncover new activities in the profession and enable it to support new education programs and certification. It is also able to take account of the varied development stages and the different focus of KE/TT across the world.
There is no requirement that any country or its TT/KE/KT Association must represent the whole breadth of the profession proposed here. However, we hope that having a definition of the profession will serve as something to relate to and possibly strive for as our industry advances.