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The importance of a dedicated team and skilled project manager for technology transfers

Have you read our earlier blogposts about the factors that can make or break your technology transfer, and the drivers of complexity in tech transfers?
technology transfer by quality by design

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Have you read our earlier blogposts about the factors that can make or break your technology transfer, and the drivers of complexity in tech transfers? Then maybe you already noticed that the team involved in a technology transfer plays an important role. For a successful transfer, companies need a mature team with people who work in complementary fashion and guarantee optimal communication and cooperation. In addition, teams need a skilled project manager. But what skills does a project manager need exactly? And what should the rest of the tech transfer team look like? Let’s take a look at the human side of tech transfers.

Skills of the project manager

Many project managers of tech transfer projects grew from technical positions into the role of project manager. Earlier QbD research shows that 75 percent of the project managers has a technical background. This is logical, if you take a look at the career path of most project managers. Often, they start as tech transfer team members because of their technical capabilities. If they do a good job, they are promoted to the role of project manager for tech transfer projects. A sound step in their career, but our research shows that the success factors for technology transfer often don’t necessarily have to do with technical skills. Other (soft) skills are just as important, for example:

  • Good communication skills: usually there are a lot of parties involved in tech transfers on both the sending and receiving side – from partners to the management team. For a project manager it’s important to communicate the right information to the right people in the right way. Think about project status, successes, possible risks, potential delay, and more.
  • Decisiveness: during tech transfers, companies are bound to strict time lines. Any delay might result in extra costs and effort or, in the case of new products, competitors beating you to the punch. Since project managers need to decide on matters under pressure of time, it’s impossible to check every decision with the management team. Therefore, it’s important that project managers are able to look after themselves. A good project manager accepts his or her responsibilities and isn’t hesitant to take the plunge. On the other side, he or she also needs to enjoy the confidence of the management team to make these decisions.
  • Relationship building: sometimes the role of project managers isn’t limited to their own company. Some companies carry out tech transfers in cooperation with other companies or partners, which means they are paid to perform certain activities. To guarantee good teamwork and future-proof partnerships, it’s even more important to solve potential problems in the right way, to inspire confidence and build relationships and to make sure everyone is satisfied. Of course, relationship building skills can be acquired by training, but these skills also need to be part of someone’s nature.
  • Organizational skills: the success of a tech transfer project often depends on activities and input from various parties. The project manager needs to supervise these activities, resources, team members and budget. In many cases, there will be situations in which some matters need to be given priority over others to guarantee a successful project. In addition, the tech transfer project might not have as much priority to everyone involved, for example if a tech transfer team or lab is working on various projects at the same time. That’s when the project manager needs to be able to stand up for his or her own tech transfer project, instead of giving precedence to others.

The ideal tech transfer team

Ideally, the project manager directs a dedicated tech transfer team. Depending on the type of tech transfer, the team consists of various experts in the field of:

  • Production: when bringing a new product onto the market, you need to validate a new process. This includes formulation, filling and packaging processes A certain kind of interaction with the production department is thus inescapable and it’s important to have an expert in your team who takes care of this.
  • Quality: the team always needs to include a Quality Assurance (QA) expert, to monitor the quality of the process and procedures, and the quality of the final transferred product. In addition, the Quality Control (QC) lab will test the product quality, so a QC expert is also always part of the team.
  • Supply chain: to produce new products you’ll need raw materials, new suppliers, new packaging material and more. A supply chain expert takes care of the management, movement and storage of required materials, goods and services, and of the supply of the final transferred product.
  • Regulatory affairs: a regulatory affairs representative needs to give input on the data that need to be collected to make sure you have all the information for the registration files in the different countries. He or she is responsible for creating registration files according to the legislations of various countries and for integrating all required (technical) data.
  • Marketing: we also see more and more marketing professionals joining tech transfer teams. A clever stroke, since it enables you to investigate market demands and potentials and implement them in your product launch.

Dedicated tech transfer teams are becoming more and more popular

When it comes to tech transfer projects, there are two ways to set up your team. Firstly, some companies set up a tech transfer team per project. Team members are part-time part of the specific tech transfer project, in addition to other activities or projects. The disadvantage is that team members often report about different projects to different people, and that all these people are competing for the time and expertise of your team member.

Secondly, some companies set up a dedicated tech transfer team for all their projects, so team members work full-time on various tech transfer projects. One of the disadvantages of this setup is that the work load will vary per team member throughout the project, which is hard to balance. Another disadvantage is that team members might lose the feeling with their own department, since they are constantly working in a fixed project team.

Our research shows that 70 percent of the respondents say they work with a fixed, dedicated team for transfers. We expect that this way of setting up tech transfer teams will become more and more popular, because it contributes to some of the success factors for tech transfers. Take for example optimal communication and cooperation between team members, which is easier when working in fixed teams. It’s also easier to train new tech transfer experts when you can make them part of a mature, experienced team. When working on tech transfer projects together, team members reach agreements on various roles and responsibilities within the team. Besides, they learn from their experiences and mistakes, and they create more standardised activities. This makes the team more successful in future tech transfers.

Of course, not every company has the time or resources to invest in a dedicated tech transfer team. For these companies, it can be wise to invest in a tech transfer framework or a consultancy party that can provide support.

In our tech transfer blog series, we zoom in on the most important aspects of technology transfers. Are you facing a situation in which technology transfer is key? Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss how we can help!

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