The AstraZeneca vaccine for CoVID-19 is a prime example to illustrate the process it takes, and the value that lies in commercialising university research. This was highlighted by a technology transfer expert at Universities South Africa’s two-day workshop held for universities’ senior executives last week, in Cape Town.

Addressing the Executive Leadership Workshop (ELW) workshop virtually from the United Kingdom last Wednesday, Mr Tom Hockaday (above), said, “The Oxford AstraZeneca COVID vaccine happened partly because there were senior people in the university who knew senior people in AstraZeneca. They could literally pick up the phone and say, ‘Hi, mate, let’s talk about this’ because they knew each other, because they had a relationship, and the transaction and the deal followed from that.”

Hockaday, who was CEO of Oxford University Innovation’s Consultancy from 2006 until March 2016, used the development of AstraZeneca to stress why universities need to focus on the importance of building the innovation community. “People do deals with people they know”, he said. And Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) could home in on that, and build relationships with people, because “it’s really all about people”, he said.