Entrepreneurial Vetmed

An example of a small university making use of its internal strengths and the external entrepreneurial community in the life sciences thriving in and around Vienna.

Christine Ruckenbauer
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

LinkedIn profile

Petra Kotaskova-Linhartova
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Background and Objectives
Technology transfer at Vetmeduni Vienna, the oldest such institution in the German-speaking world (founded 1765 by the Empress Maria Theresia), and the only one in Austria that focuses on the veterinary sciences, has a tradition that goes back to 2004, when the Austrian University Act 2002 came into force. For the first time the act regulated that intellectual property (IP) generated by university employees is owned by the employer rather than the inventors, giving universities in Austria control over their IP rights. This lead to a changed pace and manner of innovation in Austria and increased the number of technology-transfer related opportunities originating from the academic sector.
Ever since Vetmeduni Vienna strived to develop and professionalize its technology transfer. It started from a very basic level with a one-person service unit and the help of the Vice-Rector for Research at that time, who contributed his long-term pharmaceutical industry experience and network as former head of R&D of Boehringer Ingelheim, Austria. The main focus of the office at that time was to support and advise researchers in IP related matters, to administrate invention disclosures, and to assist faculty members with research and development collaboration agreements with companies. Two years later, in 2006, Vetmeduni Vienna decided to establish a holding company, VetWIDI Forschungsholding GmbH, to support spin-off companies based on university-owned IP and to manage Vetmeduni´s shares in such endeavors. Until today VetWIDI successfully assisted in the foundation of and participated in more than ten spin-off companies. One of them, Marinomed Biotech AG, only recently celebrated its IPO at the Vienna Stock Exchange.
In parallel, being conscious of the importance of IP, its protection, transfer and exploitation the Austrian government continuously supported the development of the universities´ knowledge transfer capacities with funding, training and awareness programs. The Austrian universities worked out at set of standard contracts in a joint effort with enterprises, the Intellectual Property Agreement Guide (IPAG), and joined forces to create three regional knowledge transfer centers (WTZ) to intensify the transfer of knowledge from science to industry and society with governmental financial support.

As the so-called “Third Mission” gained importance over the past 15 years, technology transfer had to expand more and more its activities and functions beyond the usual roles of patenting and licensing technology had to be taken on.

Now clearly, a university the size like Vetmeduni Vienna, with 2,500 students, about 750 scientists, and currently 40 professors cannot be compared with “commercialization centers” of medium sized technology transfer offices operated at universities with budgets of more than EUR 5 million and head counts of more than 20 people. It has to find a way to manage its tasks with much less resources. In fact with two technology transfer officers and an annual budget of less than 100.000 EUR. Now therefore Vetmeduni launched the “Entrepreneurial Vetmed” initiative to strengthen classical technology transfer and the entrepreneurial spirit of its students and employees.