Technology transfer from biomedical research to clinical practice: measuring innovation performance

Eval Health Prof. 2013 Dec;36(4):505-17. doi: 10.1177/0163278713508135. Epub 2013 Oct 18.


Studies documented 17 years of transfer time from clinical trials to practice of care. Launched in 2002, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) translational research initiative needs to develop metrics for impact assessment. A recent White House report highlighted that research and development productivity is declining as a result of increased research spending while the new drugs output is flat. The goal of this study was to develop an expanded model of research-based innovation and performance thresholds of transfer from research to practice. Models for transfer of research to practice have been collected and reviewed. Subsequently, innovation pathways have been specified based on common characteristics. An integrated, intellectual property transfer model is described. The central but often disregarded role of research innovation disclosure is highlighted. Measures of research transfer and milestones of progress have been identified based on the Association of University Technology Managers 2012 performance reports. Numeric milestones of technology transfer are recommended at threshold (top 50%), target (top 25%), and stretch goal (top 10%) performance levels. Transfer measures and corresponding target levels include research spending to disclosure (<$1.88 million), disclosure to patents (>0.81), patents to start-up (>0.1), patents to licenses (>2.25), and average per license income (>$48,000). Several limitations of measurement are described. Academic institutions should take strategic steps to bring innovation to the center of scholarly discussions. Research on research, particularly on pathways to disclosures, is needed to improve R&D productivity. Researchers should be informed about the technology transfer performance of their institution and regulations should better support innovators.

Keywords: CTSA; biomedical innovation; performance improvement; quality measures; technology transfer; translational research.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic* / economics
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Property
  • Models, Economic
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Quality Improvement
  • Technology Transfer*
  • Translational Research, Biomedical* / economics
  • United States