In conversation with Imelda Lambkin from Knowledge Transfer Ireland

Putting the structures in place to turn great ideas into great companies


Imelda Lambkin, Knowledge Transfer Ireland

Imelda Lambkin is responsible for Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI). In this interview, she discusses how the organization works and how it helps turn ideas into businesses.

In short, what is knowledge transfer and how can companies benefit from it?

There is a wealth of research and expertise available through the third tier in Ireland, in universities and similar research organisations, which companies can tap into to help develop their own research and innovation activities.

Knowledge transfer is the process by which this happens, and it becomes the commercialization of public research. The benefits can be multiple – returns to the company, returns to the university or university research team, and returns to society as a whole.


We know that companies that engage in R&D perform better than those that don’t, but it can be difficult for some companies to find the necessary resources. So it often makes sense, especially for smaller organizations, to partner with the expertise they have. We have seen examples of companies in various sectors, ranging from software to agritech, medical technology, space technology and many others, which have developed new products, improved internal production processes and made further progress in their R&D activity. This ultimately improves competitiveness and positions them for future growth in Ireland and international markets.

Knowledge Transfer Ireland is the national office that helps businesses benefit from access to Irish expertise and technology by making it easy to connect and engage with the research base in Ireland.

For companies operating in the technology sector, what advice would you give them on possible ways to boost their commercial offer?

For companies interested in exploring the knowledge transfer opportunities available to them, I would suggest that they visit the KTI website as their first port of call. KTI helps make the process of engaging in third-level research and commercializing that research simpler and more straightforward.

We are very fortunate in Ireland to have a rich landscape of public research organizations aligned with our universities and institutes of technology. Enterprise Ireland’s SFI Technology Centres, Technology Gateways and Research Centers specialize in particular areas. It can therefore be difficult to navigate the system, find the right research partner organization or the right university research center to work with your company. KTI serves as a signpost that can help steer your business in the right direction, and the website offers a variety of handy tools and resources that can help. for example to identify the right research partner and the type of public funding that might be available to support your research activity.

KTI has also produced a national directory of RD&I grants for companies which gives an overview of the main players in the research system in Ireland and the various funding schemes available.

Ireland was recently recognized by the EU for having best practice knowledge transfer protocols – is this something KTI has worked hard to achieve?

Ireland is one of the few countries to have a national research commercialization policy – ours is called the National Intellectual Property Protocol and was developed by KTI on behalf of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and employment. The protocol provides guidance on best practices for research-related engagement between industry and state research organizations, as well as guidance on the formation of state research spin-off companies.

A copy of this policy and its associated resource guide is available for download on the KTI website. It also contains links to model agreements and how-to guides written by KTI that can help guide research commercialization activity.

Technology transfer offices play an important role in enabling collaborations between companies/start-ups and access to third-level research. How do they work?

KTI also works closely with the network of technology transfer offices – also called innovation offices – in universities and institutes of technology. These offices provide a conduit for industry and academia seeking to work together and they provide support and advice throughout the process, from the development and approval of any research activity to the management of any intellectual property that may arise from the research undertaken.

The offices also work with academics looking to start a business to commercialize their research results where a real business opportunity has been demonstrated. These entities are known as spin-off companies and often operate at the forefront of their field. Many of them subsequently become High Potential Start Up clients of Enterprise Ireland, from where they can be positioned for exponential growth and job creation.

In association with Knowledge Transfer Ireland

Donald E. Patel