Technology Stimulation Measures for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

Final results - exploitation and factors for success

8.1 Summary
The elements contributing to a successful RTD project are clear objectives, market opportunities, a core strategy, sound partners, appropriate project management, a Consortium Agreement and availability of resources.

  • The exploitation and commercialisation of the results of a CRAFT project start after the completion of the project and are obligatory. At the end of the project a Technology Implementation Plan (TIP) must be submitted and approved by the Commission. The TIP should include an overview of projects results, a technology description and a plan for exploitation of results. Dissemination means to spread the results of the project to interested parties and is to be done with non-exploitable results or when further partners are searched for.

8.2 Risk & Success factors

"If you do not know where you are going any road will take you there." However, when you decide to take part in a CRAFT project it is necessary that you and your partners know where you want to go. Planning the project is drawing a map, and managing the project is reading that map to get to your goal.

To bring about a successful RTD Project the following elements have proved to be important:

  • Clear objectives set up for the project and all its partners

  • Market opportunities for the participating companies

  • A Core Strategy for your company in line with the objectives of the project

  • Sound Partners in the consortium whom you trust and easily can co-operate with

  • Project Management handled by an appropriate partner

  • A Consortium Agreement between all the partners

  • Availability of Resources regarding both money and persons

Some common reasons for failure are:

  • EU financing is the driving force for one or several partners. Avoid this by making all the objectives of the partners clear and negotiate the Consortium Agreement as early as possible.

  • Your company is not able to or does not have enough resources to adopt new technology developed in the project. Avoid this by paying attention to, and putting special effort into, the planning process.

  • The organisation of your company has to be developed to be able to take advantage of the results. Avoid this by initially making sure that the objectives of the project are in line with your company's core strategy.

8.3 Why exploiting the results?

When a project has completed the R&D work stage, exploitation and commercialisation of its results can finally begin. The research results arising from the contracts are the property of the SME contractors. Consortium agreements entered into between all the CRAFT partners will further identify rights and obligations with respect to ownership, use and exploitation of specific project results. Partners must agree about the protection of patentable results, rights to royalties, sales agreements, licences and other legal instruments relating to intellectual property rights (For further information see section 5).

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are a valuable asset that can be exploited in various ways. IPR comprise a variety of different legal rights which protect the application of ideas and information that may be of commercial value. Those most relevant to a CRAFT project include patents, copyright, but also 'know-how', which can be protected by confidentiality agreements.

The Commission's policy is that innovations originating from Commission-funded RTD should be fully exploited to secure maximum reward for the participants and for European industries. At the end of the project a confidential report on the intentions and potential for protecting and exploiting results, must be submitted, called Technology Implementation Plan (TIP).

Exploitation of the results (i.e. further development work) or commercialisation, wherever applicable, is expected to commence immediately after the completion of theproject. The contractors must, according to the contract with the Commission:

  • Exploit or commercialise the project results in conformity with the interests of the Community;

  • Freely grant licences and user rights amongst themselves for carrying out the research project and any subsequent exploitation and commercialisation.
If exploitation is not carried out by the partners within 2 years after the end of the project, licences shall be granted to third parties, as set out in the CRAFT Contract. Under certain circumstances, the Commission may protect the research results if the contractors do not do so.

8.4 Exploitation of intellectual property (IP)

A large number of all newly developed technologies are wasted since companies fail to exploit or license them. The nature of the project will of course have its impact on the exploitation of final results. If the project is about problem solving or process development the exploitation within the consortium is less complicated. However the possibility of exploiting the final results outside the consortium should always be considered as an option.

The management of intellectual assets is a strategic issue and needs to be integrated with each partner's business and marketing strategies rather than treating it as a separate, specialist issue. Even where formal protection of IP is the appropriate solution, its potential may not be fully realised, due to a number of problems, such as:

  • a lack of understanding of the system of protecting Intellectual Property and a consequent failure to use it strategically

  • an inability or unwillingness to meet the costs of protection

  • a lack of confidence that secured IP can be successfully defended, and difficulties encountered in collaborations between organisations with different cultures and priorities

The mechanisms of exploitating IPR vary and are always related to how the transfer of technology is taking place. In most cases, however, the following common phases can be recognised:

  • identification and characterisation of the technology
  • IPR management
  • search for potential customers / partners
  • sales (technology transfer) negotiations

Licensing of technology is an increasingly used method for commercial exploitation of intellectual property. Unfortunately, there is no general way to license a technology.

The literature of technology management offers various ideas on how to manage the successful commercialisation of intellectual property. Preparing a licensing agreement requires both legal and technical expertise. It is always a good idea to consult experts to maximise the return and minimise problems from the licensing and commercial exploitation of intellectual property assets.


The IPR-Helpdesk has been set up by the European Commission and offers services within the IPR area. It offers two main services:

  • General information on IPR protection and exploitation.

  • A telephone Helpline which provides information to individual companies and research organisations. Information can be given on how to protect IPR assets, who to approach in order to exploit IPR via licensing agreements, how to find further professional advisers etc.

Information on the IPR-Helpdesk can be found on the following home page:

8.5 Technology Implementation Plan (TIP)

At the end of the project the Co-ordinator must submit for approval by the Commission a Technology Implementation Plan on how to exploit the project results. A key point to consider is the legal protection of intellectual property. Besides featuring the patenting process, the plan shall indicate how the partners, as a consortium and as separate enterprises, intend to exploit the results of the work.

You should remember that although certain matters have to be reported you are not writing a report or a plan just to satisfy the Commission but to create new business or improved profitability for your company. The Commission has a document with detailed instructions and guidelines on how to create a TIP (can be requested from the IPR-Helpline). The main structure of the Technology Implementation Plan is:

  • Overview of projects results
    Information on the project consortium and the results of the project

  • Technology description
    Information on the results that are possible to exploit

  • Exploitation of results
    Information on the different partners' intentions to exploit the results, their capabilities, activities and timetables, the potential of the results to be exploited and the resources required for successful exploitation.

Some of the most important ingredients of the plan are:

Technology Identification and Description
All main results of the project have to be identified and described. Arising from the project there might also be unexpected results that may be commercially valuable. These can be, for example, new materials, manufacturing processes, equipment, and software programmes. Identify all these opportunities during the course of the project and in drawing up the TIP and the Consortium Agreement.

After having identified all deliverables that deserve special attention for exploitation, describe the main features and benefits of each technology or product. This will make it possible for you to discover if your technology offers functionality to an end user in addition to what it was originally designed for. In your description try also to think of how potential customers will look at the benefits from their point of view.

Describe the innovative aspects of the intended results in comparison with State of the Art technologies, products or processes.

The TIP should also describe the ownership of intellectual property rights that are related to each particular product and how the rights are shared between the partners according to the Consortium Agreement.

Customer Profile
Try to identify all potential customers. After the identification of customers you can figure out who will decide to purchase the new product or service offered.

You should also be able to understand the dynamics of your customer's business. There might be things other than new technologies that make your customer happy and successful. The relationship with the customer after the first sale has been made should be considered.

Market Opportunity
A good business plan focuses on the size and growth of the potential market. Is the total market for the product large, rapidly growing, or both? Define whether the market place is global and point out the size of its European part. Try to analyse the history of this marketplace and the driving forces that are changing it. Concentrate also on market trends and emerging future patterns.

Present clear and precise data about the markets concerned. Give indications of the size of the real market that you are able to reach and what kind of market share you could realistically achieve.

After having studied the environment into which the new technology will be introduced you should define your organisation's opportunities and potential to make a profit. Remember also the existence of rules, regulations and industrial standards, etc. since they will have a great impact on every aspect of the business process. The timing of launching new products is another crucial factor that should be considered.

Check the conformity of the new business opportunity with the existing business strategy of your company.

Define how your company with its new product is positioned on the current market. This will help you to identify not only the competing organisations but also the competing applications or technologies.

If the commercialisation of the new technology relies on other organisation and its technology you should consider forming a partnership with that organisation.

Put the new product also in your company's product portfolio. Analyse if the new product is reliant on any other internal technology and if there are synergies between existing and new products that should be further developed.

Potential Exploitation Channels
When planning to exploit the results, analyse who is in the best position to exploit each individual result. Obviously a company has an advantage compared to a newcomer if it has existing distribution channels and is close to the end users. Building a distribution channel is a long-term investment that might not be possible for your company to make. Here alternative means of exploitation like licensing and strategic partnerships come into the picture.

Analyse what sort of cost and net profits each potential exploitation channel will offer in the short and long term.

While making choices between different exploitation channels bear in mind that your organisation needs to be developed accordingly. What kind of training would be needed for the staff to be able to support the introduction of new products?

Competition and Risk Analysis
Based on the findings in the section on positioning, analyse how your competitors are operating in the existing market. Study what properties in your products could give you a relative competitive advantage and how these properties and features could be further enhanced.

Access alternative competitive situations and the risks related to them. Also outline alternative operational options for how your company could react in various competitive situations.

Prioritise all the reasons (e.g. technology failure, competition, and lack of resources) why the commercial exploitation of the results might fail. Make a list of measures to avoid these risks.

Although planning is essential and will help you to make the most of the project, be always ready to exploit all results as they emerge. Keep your Technology Implementation Plan alive and let the results reflect the opportunities arising from your research project or from changes in the market.

8.6 Dissemination

Dissemination in the context of EU Projects is to spread the results of a project to interested parties. The project partners decide themselves how and which parts of the results to disseminate. However, this must not hinder the protection and/or commercialisation of results.

All the EU RTD programmes have been started to help European companies to overcome actual technical or industrial problems and to increase their competitiveness. Project participants are encouraged to make use of all methods of communication to make their products and services known to potential customers. Publicity brought about by dissemination can also open doors to commercial exploitation of results. Typical methods include press releases, conferences, exhibitions, and marketing of new technology through newsletters, leaflets, and other publications.

Several projects have also used external observers as part of the publicity process. Where appropriate, end users, financiers, venture capitalists, trade unions and other organisations are invited to take part in dissemination and exploitation workshops and meetings.

The Commission wants the partners to make the results of the project as well known as possible. Specific promotion measures exist for this reason. Apart from the restrictions agreed on to protect intellectual property rights, all projects are encouraged to publish their results. Help is also available through the Commission's own resources, such as the CORDIS centralised database, the network of Innovation Relay Centres, and TAFTIE partners in the Member States.