Max Planck Institutes perform scientific research "autonomously and independently". The scientists are obliged to make the results of their research available to the general public. Moreover, the Max Planck Society pursues a very active patent and licensing policy as well as an offensive technology transfer policy.
As a result of the research at Max Planck Institutes a considerable number of new technological breakthroughs that can lead either directly or indirectly to new products or to advantageous industrial procedures. New material technologies of international importance have stemmed from work at Max Planck Institutes in chemistry, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical technology, solid state physics as well as the production of new materials.
- Transferring technology to businesses occurs in various ways:
- through direct cooperation with partners from business and public institutions,
- by exploiting patents and licenses as well as
- through start-up companies and shares in them.
Identifying, securing, looking after, and transferring these technologies require experience and know-how. For this purpose, the Max Planck Society maintains Max Planck Innovation (until the end of 2006 called Garching Innovation).
Since its re-organisation in 1979, some 3,800 inventions have been managed and around 2,300 licencing agreements concluded. Since the early 1990s, 114 spin-offs have emerged from the MPG, the vast majority of them actively coached by Max Planck Innovation. These spin-offs have since resulted in the creation of over 2,650 jobs. (As of December 31, 2014).
In 2014, 131 inventions were filed with Max Planck Innovation (2013: 127), and 80 exploitation agreements (including agreements on joint inventions/technology transfer agreements) were concluded (2013: 93). Revenues from exploitation are expected to reach 23.5 million euros (2013: 22.5). In 2014, those revenues included the sale of a company and a residual payment from an earlier company sale with revenues of around 50,000 euros (2013: 0 euros).
In addition to actively looking and securing intellectual property and inventions worthy of being patented and transferring them to interested companies, the Max Planck Society also encourages its scientists to set up their own technological companies. The Max Planck Society promotes this kind of technology transfer in as much as it can as a publicly financed, non-profit research organization by
- allowing scientists to perform ancillary activities provided this is legally possible and does not interfere with the interests of the institute or those of the Max Planck Society.
- granting the scientists limited rights to return to the institute.
- enabling the scientists to rent rooms at the institute on a temporary basis.
- leaving the scientists equipment at their present value.
- giving the scientists access to infrastructure facilities such as workshops and computer time, etc..
- entrusting scientists with know-how of materials and control techniques and providing materials and samples.
- allowing Max Planck Institutes and newly established companies to perform joint research and work on projects.
- arranging consultant and cooperation contracts for scientists (via Max Planck Innovation) in the new company.
- having shares in the newly founded company for limited periods instead of making one-time payments for licenses.
Up until now 90 companies stemming from Max Planck Institutes have been spun off, the majority being in the biomedical field. Preparations are underway for further spin-off companies.