Episode 11 – Relationships vs transactions and the Vice Chancellor’s challenge with David Mitchell

Jul 25, 2022

About this episode

In our discussion with David Mitchell, former CEO of the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, and more recently the founder of Find My EV, and currently the advanced manufacturing adviser for Katalis in Jakarta, we dive into the importance of relationships, how these contrast with transactions and the systemic challenges in the tertiary sector that creates tech transfer challenges for commercialisation specialists, and indeed Australia’s ambitions to deliver impact from national science investment.

This podcast is particularly timely in our view. With an increasing focus on generating returns from Australia’s science investments and research communities, the formation of relationships between the research, technology transfer practitioners and industry should be at the heart of sustained performance. However, it appears to our guest that these connections are rarer than they should be or could be, through an innovation culture that has generally lapsed into transactions and processes, rather than one underpinned by relationships and principles.

From these observations, this podcast explores what could be missing and sets a challenge for research sector leadership on how the foundations on which science is created need to be reinforced through relationships in order to build a more productive technology transfer community and engagement with industry.


CB: Hello everyone, and welcome to Tech Transfer Talk. My name is Cameron Begley and joining me today is Dr David Mitchell. David Mitchell has a long history in technology transfer, starting in what one might call the early days of biotech back in the 90s, launching companies back then, moving to CSIRO to start a brave new world called bioinformatics and driving the initiatives around that within CSIRO, before moving into energy, back into biotech and then ultimately into renewables. A very broad set of experiences and David’s been kind enough to join us today. David, hello.

DM: Hello Cameron. Thanks for having me.

CB: A pleasure. Thanks very much for making time to join us, David. With that breadth of experience, and indeed across a couple of continents as well as, as I recall, you spent some time in Switzerland as well as most of your career in Australia. How did you stumble into starting a biotech company in the nineties?

DM: I think stumble in is exactly the correct terminology. Right. I’m now of the view that we’re sort of formed and we have the same views very shortly after we leave university, and they don’t really change. And I’ve always been interested in business, even though I’m formally trained as a scientist. And there was an opportunity, when I was in Switzerland, to start a small company with my next-door neighbour selling laboratory equipment – because in my naive way, I went there, and they didn’t have a piece of laboratory equipment that we used in Australia all the time – for biotech people, red racks is what they were. And the alternatives were, like, really expensive. So, I started off by importing those a box at a time and selling them to people. And by the time we finished I was doing it full time; it was turning over about half a million dollars a year. I learnt my first lesson about cashflow, which was the more I sold, the bigger my overdraft got and the larger my inventory was. Right. And in the end, I sold that company, we sold it, Ursula and I, to a guy, and it’s still running today, it’s still using the same logo and the same name that I designed on my computer in 1993.

CB: That’s quite incredible. So, you had an exit first up, a successful exit first up.

DM: Yes, probably a poor experience went downhill from there, but yes, I did. We actually sold the company, we got paid money and we had an earn out, so all of those things. So, when you say I’m an entrepreneur, the answer is yes. But I’ve always been at the small end and I’ve always, not necessarily by choice, to be honest, and I’ve always focused on building a business that I thought would be a business that would run and employ people and have product as opposed to building something I thought I could flip to somebody else and go on to the next one. And I think that that’s an important distinction. And neither is right or wrong, it’s just on the former rather than the latter.

CB: In those the early days of your entrepreneurship and still the early days of biotechnology, industrial enzymes were still an emerging space in the mid- to late 90s. What was it that drew you towards the solving problem part of entrepreneurship rather than necessarily the idea generation?

DM: So, that’s a really insightful question, as in it promotes a strong response. But I think the issue is that that is the difference between research push entrepreneurship and market pull entrepreneurship. So, market pull entrepreneurship is all about being in touch with the market or working in the market and understanding it, and seeing that there’s an opportunity to do things better, and then working out how you might do that. And that’s what I am – I’m an integrator. I take a problem, I take some technology, I take the people, I work up the business model, you have to have a bit of a think about how the IP Is going to work, and you build that package. So that means that I look for a problem, and then I run off and look for technology to fill it. And I’ve got a view that technology is relatively straightforward and that there are an enormous number of smart people out there and they will essentially solve the problem. And the other method of entrepreneurship is what I call tech push entrepreneurship, which is, you know, it’s valid. It’s a way of doing stuff. But that is that you’ve worked in a lab, and you’ve invented something, and then what you’re doing is you’re looking to build a business around what it is that you’ve invented, and you’re hoping that the market actually agrees with you. And sometimes that works very well and sometimes it doesn’t. And what happens is that it’s actually a bit of both, because even if you’re a market pull guy, you still want to be looking at the latest technologies to solve your problem, but you’re not wedded to one particular thing.

CB: So, whilst we talk about things in a binary sense, I think to take that last point, David, you’re on a continuum, and things are more one than the other, not necessarily all of one or the other.

DM: Correct. And you move up and down that continuum. When you’re trying to stitch a deal together, you need all sorts of people. And the person that you worked with on the last deal might not be quite the right one for this deal. It might be out of their technical comfort zone, they might have already spent their money, you might have had a bit of a bruising encounter and you need some time for the dust to settle and things to sort out, right? Because even if you’re dealing with friends, even friends have arguments, right?

 CB: Yeah. So, in examining this idea of relationships a little bit more, you just highlighted the fact that, yeah, you don’t do the same thing with everyone, every time. But then an interesting point I’d like to explore with you, then, is in those relationships, and they have varying degrees of strength, they have varying degrees of depth and breadth, etcetera. But it’s the ability to manage relationships beyond transactions. And so, you’ll transact on a – I mean, ultimately, each piece of a puzzle that you put together, David, could be seen in almost a legalistic sense as a transaction. But those transactions then sit in a broader context of all the relationships that you hold. What happens when counterparties, be they friends or be they people that you’re just doing business with on a particular matter? How do we manage this idea of people not getting caught up in the transaction, or perhaps even worse, if I could call it that, focusing solely on the transaction and missing the relationship in which that transaction or transactions sit?

DM: So, I think we cut to the heart of it now. And the underlying theme, I think, that I’d like to bring across in this podcast, for what it’s worth, is relationships versus transactions. Or as I like to call it, principles versus process. And it’s not an either or. Again, it’s a continuum. And people operate at multiple places on the continuum. The way in which you orient your thinking, either transaction based, or relationship based, drives you to a way of dealing with people and structuring stuff that is quite different and has quite a different impact on the people around you and has, in my view, in some cases, fundamentally changed the whole entrepreneurial landscape in Australia and around some good bits of the world, right. So, it’s a simple thing to say, but it has really deep and far-reaching implications. And I would say that the entrepreneurship and tech transfer landscape in Australia is primarily transactional and process driven.

CB: Why – why do you think it’s that?

DM: Well, because I look at what I see around me. So, let’s talk a bit about what we see. And look, I’m not, this may sound critical, and I don’t wish to be critical, what I’m trying to do is highlight a different way of looking at things, and I happen to think a bit different from the mainstream.

CB: Right, yeah. No, this is what we’re interested in.

DM: The tech transfer landscape in Australia, particularly out of universities, is research-led, research push. There’re all sorts of rules around how it works, especially with incentives in universities. So individual scientists own their IP, which leads to a whole lot of really weird, perverse incentives. They have entrepreneurial courses. You go to a course, you do this, you’ll learn to be an entrepreneur. Step one, step two, step three. Like it’s a process. Whereas I happen to think that entrepreneurship is a bit more like painting. You have a palette of stuff, and sometimes you’re using a lot of black, and sometimes you’re not, right. Sometimes you’re putting it on with a trowel, and sometimes you’re putting it on with a pencil-fine brush. And I think tech transfer in universities has been reduced to., you know, paint-by-numbers a little bit. But you know, when you look in from the outside, it’s, you know, it’s a pretty homogeneous sector. It’s really people who’ve worked at universities, going to work at other universities. If you hop on LinkedIn and look at all of the people who work in tech transfer, they won’t have spent half their time in a business, out in the world. They’ll have probably spent most of their time doing tech transfer in universities.

CB: That’s interesting. The career tech transfer person.

DM: Yeah. And it’s a sort of a special sort of business development. And they are selected because they understand. A comment that I will make and stand behind, is that universities overvalue people with experience at universities. They think that universities are special and that you need to have experience at universities. And they really want to hire. So, they might talk about ‘we need to interact more with industry’, but what they want to do is hire somebody from another university that had done that sort of job there before.

CB: Certainly, universities are special environments. That bit I agree with.

DM: Absolutely. But they have lots of people inside them that understand how they work, right? So, if I come back to the relationship view of the world, it’s about building a team. And one of the most uncomfortable things about building teams is building it full of people that don’t think like you.

CB: Interesting.

DM: And so, we talk about diversity. We talk about diversity all the time, and diversity is a good thing, and we want different perspectives. But it’s not really diversity if you hire a team of people that is appropriately gendered, are appropriately ethnicity based, appropriately disability based, but they all think the same way about everything.

CB: Yeah, so all of that said, but not experientially diverse or cognitively diverse.

DM: Correct.

CB: Before we advance off the notion of entrepreneurship and tech transfer and this issue of relationships, I think it’s a really interesting point around cognitive and experiential diversity. And I genuinely believe that you need people that can be on the outside coming in and, on the inside coming out, and deal with that cross organizational boundary tension effectively. Because sometimes what the market wants is not what you’ve got, and sometimes what you’ve got is not what the market wants. And we got to process that, and we got to deal with that. And that’s just any business. That’s not just tech transfer. That’s basically ‘selling stuff 101’, that particular challenge. But we’ve spoken about that transaction process driven approach, and I’d like to just dig a little bit further into that momentarily, because I think that process and the transactions that arise from a process, the processes are set up around a set of principles and policies of an organization. Those principles and policies are typically a result of an amalgam of the culture of a particular institution and the settings of the executive management team within that institution. I’m interested to just touch on the different tech transfer cultures that you might have come across and any reflections you might have on that.

DM: So, let’s do CSIRO versus universities. CSIRO private companies versus universities. So, if I work for a private company or I work for CSIRO, in the field for which I am employed, important note they own all my IP, and they don’t own everything I do because I might be doing something on my own time out of field, which they don’t own, but in scope, in time, they own it all. And that’s the reason that they’ve hired me and that they pay me a salary commensurate with experience, is because they wish for me to help create IP that they can work with. And if I do a good job, then what I’m expecting is a bonus. But I have a very relaxed view about employment, which is that I’m not looking to go and work for somebody for the next 20 years, certainly not at my stage. But what I’m looking to do is to do good stuff, to make a contribution and to change stuff. Impact is through other people. It’s very rarely individual impact. So, in that way you build team because what you’re doing is the goal is the outcome that you’re trying to deliver. So, what you do is you try and find people that can work together and work together well and have the right mix of skills and experience to deliver an outcome. And the bigger and better that outcome and the more challenging it is and the more resources you have to achieve it, the better you like it. Because it’s always nice to be working on something exciting. Just imagine being an engineer that worked for SpaceX the first time they managed to get a rocket to land on one of those floating platforms. I mean, unbelievable. You would have been literally over the moon, right?

CB: Yeah, well, metaphorically in that case, of course.

DM: I think that is, in fact, true. If I look at in that sort of circumstance, it’s relatively easy to manage the behavior because so long as you are paying people properly and treating people properly and facilitating their interactions together appropriately, they are all working in the same direction, because their only reward is their salary and, maybe a bonus and fair treatment.

CB: And hopefully to just come back to what you said – and doing good deeds.

DM: Sure. I mean, if the reason that you got hired was to build spin outs, then do the job, alright.

CB: But I understand your point. I suspect the motivators are a little bit more than being treated well and a good salary.

DM: Of course.

CB: Yeah, yeah, I think people want to be doing good things and good deeds, but in principle, I think the contrast you’re about to draw here, David, is with the university sector and the way that those staff are brought into the tech transfer space.

DM: Yes. So, if I look at the way that universities are incentivizing researchers to engage with industry, which is like a very interesting sentence when you say it.

CB: It is rather, isn’t it?

DM: So, right at the beginning, it tends to suggest that the hiring practices don’t work.

CB: Depending upon what the basis of hiring is, of course.

DM: Well, we’ve had 30 years. I’d have assumed that you could have changed the basis of hiring by now.

CB: Well, we’ve had 30 years.

DM: So, have the universities. The universities have been wanting people to do more commercialization and be more relevant, since last century.

CB: Always sounds good when you say it like that, doesn’t it?

DM: It does, absolutely, right. So, what I don’t understand is why they haven’t changed the way that they hire people now. It’s got a lot to do with their business model. But we seem to be at the same place we were in the mid 90s, which is saying, well, unless I reward researchers to do commercialization and work with industry, they’ll just do their own research. And so therefore, I have to dangle the lolly so that they will behave the way I want.

CB: I understand your point there, David. Whilst this is intrinsically linked to doing tech transfer from tertiary institutions because this is about the products that you have to offer from a university perspective or tertiary institute perspective, how do you move the needle in the tertiary settings to get a better set of tech transfer offerings out to industry?

DM: Okay, so I think that there are some relatively simple ways of doing that. But before we do, let’s talk about how universities currently incentivize people to do that.

CB: Sure.

DM: And the way that universities currently incentivize researchers to work on problems relevant to industry and commercialize, are by allowing them to own the IP. So, they own their IP, and if it is commercialized, they receive a share. And typical arrangement is a third to the individual researcher, a third to the lab, and a third to the university.

CB: I’ve heard about this. Yes.

DM: So, let’s just unpack it a little bit further. So how does that work? So, the first thing is, well, the university, of course, pays for the patent. The university, of course, pays for the commercialization. If it is fantastically successful, those costs are deducted before the remark, you know, the profit is split.

CB: So, there’s a net off.

DM So, there’s a net off for successful projects. For unsuccessful projects, the university just wears So, if you’re a researcher, the logical way to do this, is to make sure you get on as many patents as possible, and to make sure that the university works as hard as it possibly can to commercialize your research and not somebody else’s research, because then you’re going to maximize your return. So, the trouble is that it socializes the loss and privatizes the profit, from a university’s perspective.

CB: Yeah.

DM: So, the university wears all of the costs, no matter what happens, yet when something is successful, they essentially get a third of the income.

CB: Yeah. Okay.

DM: Now, if that was absolutely driving commercialization activity in universities, fantastically, successfully, we might be able to take that trade off, right? Having a view against that is probably a bit purist. Let’s do what works. I don’t think it works. I don’t think universities are fantastic commercializers. Yeah, they’ve got some notable successes. They’re better than they are. They’re running courses, people are more aware. But you go to any university environment, and you find lots of people who would just like to work io their lab, doing what they like with their group of people. Universities are not – they talk about cross discipline at university, but actually it’s just a series of fifedoms.

CB: Yeah, I think, David, just to unpack that comment about how good the tertiary sector is at commercializing, I think if a distinction can be drawn, at least in my mind, there are the technology transfer professionals who are in saddle or in harness, depending on one’s particular perspective, around sitting on that interface between the institution and the external environment. And then the researchers, who you just referred to, who, just again to grossly generalize, are comfortable sitting in, doing their projects. There are actually two different cohorts obviously quite connected to each other.

DM: Absolutely. And only one of those cohorts is incentivized.

CB: Being the researchers?

DM: Correct.

CB: Well, okay…

DM: How are the tech transfer people incentivized? They’re just hired on term contracts and that’s their job, to commercialize stuff.

CB: So that opens up an interesting conversation around their incentives, depending on how their remuneration packages are put together, they may be actively screening the ones they think are more likely, because that would then align with their incentives.

DM: Correct.

CB: So, an interesting sort of set of scenarios emerge around contrarian incentives between the science community and the tech transfer community, around what might be seen as important or prospective.

DM: Yep. Correct.

CB: So, it is interesting when we look at the incentives of the tech transfer staff and sit it alongside the incentives of the research community in a particular institution, and then think about how that affects how tech transfer is done and the relationships or the transactions that occur with the external environment.

DM: Absolutely, and the answer is ‘why would you try too hard?’

CB: Your contention there being, David, that it should be that hard?

DM: No, no, no, no. If you look at the classic private sector startup, all of the early on people are incentivized with shares or part of it, they mightn’t be founders. But if you’re a rapidly growing business, then you know that the idea that you had or the seed capital that you put in, is such a tiny part of needing to get to something at scale. And founders that overvalue their initial contribution inevitably fail.

CB: I have heard of that.

DM: My view is that there is a structural and deep-seated problem in the Australian tertiary research sector, that they over value their output – in the context of turning it into a business. In the context of a research paper, absolutely. But, I think we used to say, a dollar on research is $10 in development, is $100 in commercialization.

CB: That’s probably not too far off as a rough rule.

DM: Well, it’s difficult to really make the case, that the $110 that you’re spending in development and commercialization, is spent by people who don’t have particular skills, in moving you up that path.

CB: It has been interesting from other podcasts that this need for much more funding and resource than the inventors imagine. It’s predominantly come from licensees who have taken technologies from research institutions and have said, gee, this took a lot more or took a lot longer, or was a lot harder, or all these things we didn’t think of. And I’m sure you can put a few more taglines in there about unknown or unanticipated things that arose, that then needed to be solved.

DM: Yes, absolutely. So, let’s take that as a way to come back to your question about what is it that universities could do differently? Greatest way to motivate people is to say, well, I’m going to prioritize resources to those people that exhibit the behaviors that we would like to see. And then you’re very clear about the behaviors. You don’t force anybody to do them, but you model them. And you are absolutely ruthless, in not rewarding people who exhibit bad behavior.

CB: So, it’s that last piece there, David, which I think takes me, may even take you back to the flagship that happened within CSIRO about 20 years ago, where 30% of the cheese got moved.

DM: Yes.

CB: And then suddenly, it was a new contest for those resources, because the Executive decided that there were certain behaviors and certain directions, perhaps more than behaviors, that they wanted to take the organization. From a tech transfer perspective, bringing your science teams and I think, to some extent, we can include the actual tech transfer professionals here, your contention there, David, is being explicit about the behaviors that you want exhibited and the directions that you want to go.

DM: One of the things that I did want to move on to that I think is very important in the relationships versus transaction world, is how we manage people. And specifically, I’m talking about what I would call the rise of the short-term contract and other people might call the casualization of the workforce. I’ve always found this a particularly difficult area to navigate. And I’ve also come to realize through my management of people and personal observation, the really deep toll that concatenating short-term contracts has on people. And it’s transactions versus relationships. So, if you want to manage people transactionally, you have lots of rules, you give them timesheets, you keep them on short-term contracts, and if they don’t do what you want or they don’t perform, then you just don’t renew and it stops you having to have difficult conversations in performance managing. And the logic that gets used, I don’t speak particularly of universities here, but everywhere, particularly with research scientists, is, oh, well, I’ve got an external grant and that only runs for a particular period of time and so I can only give you a contract that matches the length of the income. Well, that’s not really true. You can give people, let’s call them indefinite positions, I mean, you can just give people an indefinite position and if the money disappears, then you just give them a redundancy or you transfer them to a different project or you do something else with them. I mean, that’s what happens in normal business. Most normal businesses, they just hire you, and if there’s an awful downturn, they lay you off, and it’s not very nice, and they give you a package.

CB: So, you think there is a distinction to be drawn here between the multiple consecutive short-term contracts and the psychological benefits, if I could call it that, of tenure or permanency, whatever one might call it, and then, an inherent flexibility from all concerned about moving to other things once current things are done.

DM: Correct. Now, I’m avoiding the concept of tenure that university academics have with a certain freedom to do stuff without being able, so that they’re able to do things that their masters might not like and have the freedom. So, I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is…I worked in a research organization that was entirely funded off grant money, and there had been people there over a decade of continuous service on two, one-year, three-month contracts. The debilitating toll that that takes on their life. We had people, like people would leave because they could go somewhere where they could get a permanent job.

CB: Why wouldn’t you?

DM: Well, you could see that they actually didn’t really want to, but they had a mortgage and it wasn’t worth the grief at home. And the truth of the matter is that we could just give these people jobs as research technician but then the expectation is that, well, we’ll have a project. And if we don’t have a project, we’ll try and find you another project. And if we can’t find you another project, then we’ll have to let you go. And in my experience, people were completely accepting of that because they knew that money was not always in short supply. But then you drive a different sort of behavior because when you’ve got people on contracts, what they’re doing is, they are looking for the next contract and they want the longest one. So, you lose them out of your lab because you can only give them a year, to another lab that has a three-year project. So, what they do is they move into an area that they don’t know as well because they can get a three-year contract.

CB: So. the logic of this, I think, is relatively clear here, David, or at least the logic of the two contrasting positions that you’re outlining. So, why has the system, I’ll call it, why has the system fallen into the contractual short-termism? Is it because making people redundant is more risky? Is it harder? Why has this come about, David?

DM: Because they value transactions over relationships.

CB: So, do you see that as causative or do you see that just as a reflection of the deeper…

DM: Well, it’s sort of self reinforcing. Once you start down a transactional route, then it becomes easy because it’s a process, it does it to everybody. You don’t have to have uncomfortable conversations. I mean, I actually think that there’s a whole group of managers who actually can’t manage people, they can only manage contracts.

CB: And processes.

DM: And processes.

CB: That’s entirely possible.

DM: Right. You see it very commonly, “Oh, we can’t do that.” “Well, why not?” “Because the process doesn’t let us.” “Well, yeah, but what’s the principle?” “But it’s the process, right?” People have locked themselves into a particular way of doing things. I mean, if you take a university EBA (Enterprise Bargaining Agreement) – I call it, my nickname for them is ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ – there’s a section of the EBA that deals with tenured academic staff, and they get, if things go badly, a year’s redundancy. And then there’s the section of the EBA that deals with people on fixed-term contracts and concatenating contracts. And the worst thing is that, well, they might actually just, if their contract just expires as you happen to be doing your major reorganization or rearrangement, ‘well, bad luck, your contract’s expired, see you later, pay out your entitlements.’ Or ‘yes, you’ve worked for the university for a particular period of time’, but I know of one concrete circumstance where, if you had been a permanent staff member – i.e. a tenured staff member, you would receive nearly double the payout that a person who’d been on contracts, who had started the same day as you and worked the same length of time.

CB: Right. Hence the ‘upstairs downstairs’ analogy.

DM: Not to mention the fact that one of those people probably got 17% superannuation and the other got ten. Universities paying people 10% because they’re on a contract versus 17% if they’re on permanent. What happened to equal pay for equal work?

CB: That’s at least a 50-year-old question, isn’t it?

DM: Yeah, I mean, it’s a joke, quite frankly, and if you’re a Vice Chancellor listening to this podcast, which I hope you are, this is how the real world looks at that sort of stuff and you can’t explain it away, it’s just discrimination. Stop it.

CB: With that setting for the research community, and in essence, the research community is generating the products, that we transfer out to the external environment, to industry, to market, it’s those people that are also in turn responding to the signals that the tech transfer community bring back in, asking them to adapt. Oh, no, we don’t need that anymore; we need something new, different, solves a different problem, etcetera. What does that mean as someone doing tech transfer, when you have those sorts of untenured uncertainties swirling in the background and your tech transfer community continues to try and adapt to what’s going on externally?

DM: It’s tough. You know. You know, thanks for setting it up like that. I don’t really have a good answer.

CB: No, that’s okay, that it is tough is a great start, right?

DM: The way that you even frame this, is what I call the supremacy of the researcher. Invent product that has to go out there. That’s ‘tech push’. That’s ‘tech push’. Why wouldn’t universities flip it around and have the tech transfer people, not necessarily them alone, why wouldn’t they give them the budget to commission research which is of interest to the customers that they found out there, who are prepared to pay? Why don’t we flip the model around? Because quite frankly, it’s the guys that understand industry, the people that understand industry, that hold the value. There is a harsh reality that says that the value is for the people that know the industry and can bring in the industry money. And it’s relatively straightforward to find smart people to do the technical work that needs to be done. Now, if I was to be completely fair, industry can’t envisage what it doesn’t need. Industry doesn’t know what problems they have that need solving. So, you need a bit of both. If you get the the right people at the interface who are interacting with the scientists who are pouring good ideas into them, and industry who are pouring problems into them, they will be identifying really important and valuable problems that industry don’t know that they have, and the researchers know how to solve, but nobody asked them to.

CB: So, that is the crucible in which good science and good research solves big problems…

DM: Correct.

CB: And you get effective tech transfer. The challenge is how do you build those sorts of crucibles on a more regular basis and, I’d suggest, the really tough bit about that is it’s not a set of processes and transactions.

DM: Correct.

CB: But it is, in fact, a set of relationships and principles, which drive a particular cultural mentality.

DM: Yep, that is absolutely correct. It’s all about the people.

CB: Yeah, it’s all about the people.

DM: It’s always all about the people.

CB: And to pick up a point that you’ve raised through our chat today, it’s about how you manage those people and how you integrate their skills and interests with the pots of resources that are sitting external to the organization or to the institution that they’re engaged by. David, to some extent, those last comments there, represented a nice summary of the conversations today, but are there any other final thoughts that you’d like to share as we wrap things up?

DM: I think my final thought is, I’ve never really… I mean, I’m a technical person, I have a very technical background, but I’ve probably moved along to the position that you know, technical supremacy is a is a service that can be purchased and and that I have plenty of choice. But it’s much more much more difficult to find good people to work with that you trust. Those people are really valued, and you’ve got to look after them, and they look after you. And the best thing is that once you’ve got a few of them, then they’re referring you to other people, and you’re referring them to other people, and that’s what’s important. And we see that community everywhere. I see that community in scientists all the time, around particular discipline areas. I’m actually really hopeful. I’m very hopeful. We’re at a really exciting time in clean tech. The next 20 years is just going to make the internet boom look a bit pedestrian, in my view. And young people will carry that. And I see people with much broader education than I ever had. So, they go and do an entrepreneurial course and that’s good for them because they think about stuff. Fundamentally, I value relationships.

CB: I think that’s a great stepping off point from today’s discussion because I think, David, a lot of the undercurrent from our discussion today has been that relationships are critical to driving, not only tech transfer, but by driving the relationships between the external environment into which technology gets ported and the internal environments with institutions, in which it finds its green shoots and grows. So, relationships is a good place to finish. So, David, thanks very much for joining us today on Tech Transfer Talk. It’s been terrific talking with you.

DM: Thank you. It’s been a delight to be on.

CB: That was David Mitchell, one of my long-standing colleagues, who has an extensive experience across biotech and clean tech, who shared with us today his thoughts around relationships and principles and process and how these things drive tech transfer. We look forward to you joining us next time on Tech Transfer Talk.

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