The Soft Side of Technology Transfer: Developing Trust

October 2, 2006
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-10-02-2006, Volume 30, Issue 10

Whether you advance your technology from concept to commercialization or use a third party for parts or all of this work, the ability to do technology transfer flawlessly is essential to successful, efficient pharmaceutical production.

Whether you advance your technology from concept to commercialization or use a third party for parts or all of this work, the ability to do technology transfer flawlessly is essential to successful, efficient pharmaceutical production.

Jeff Dudley

Technology transfer has two camps: 1) the delivery of technology for a new project to another internal function or to a third-party contract manufacturing organization (CMO) and 2) the receipt of technology from another internal function or a CMO.

And, technology transfer has two key facets. The first, and foremost in our minds, is the science and technology involved in the technology transfer. The other, which sometimes is taken for granted or ignored, is creating working relationships with our partners. Successful technology transfer is greatly improved if both sides are considered equally.

Building trust among partners

Technical capability.Technical capability is either a necessity or an advantage, but it cannot stand alone. Most established CMOs have great technical capability and some claim to have "best in the industry" technologies. In general, technical capability is a great tie-breaker when deciding between two firms.

Building TRUST

Relationship. The relationship is inherently important. CMOs should:

  • Define and care about the partner's success. We often assume we know what our partner considers to be "success," but we rarely ask them or record the definition. Once documented, reconfirming the definition of success on a regular basis is essential.

  • Commit time to partners. How time is spent is a measure of your priorities. Make time for your partners' questions and needs. Ensure they know how much time you are dedicating to their success.

  • Provide time for both sets of experts to meet. Do not filter technical discussions through second- or third-hand explanations. Once the project is underway, provide opportunities for the technical experts from each partner to discuss and explain the technology face-to-face or by other, virtual means.

  • Make many points of contact. The fatal flaw in a solely technical-based project can be only one point of contact at one level. If that relationship comes to a standstill, no other avenue or recourse can be taken. Multiple levels and points of contact must be nurtured in an organized fashion through project discussion logs or other means.

Understanding. As you develop a relationship with your partner, you can also develop a keen sense of understanding, which is the key to developing a common purpose between you and your partner. As the relationship grows, you will:

  • become part of the partner's success;

  • provide the necessary time to execute their project successfully;

  • allow your technical experts to become their technical experts' partners;

  • record their definition of success and revisit it frequently;

  • make their upper management believe you are like their own employees;

  • listen, ask questions, explore possibilities, and share success.

Success. Understanding breeds success. You cannot develop understanding without technical capability and a relationship. Both partners must describe and revisit the description of success many times. Once that success is defined and redefined, the partner and CMO codepend on each other to achieve success. Mutually working on success as partners allows adversity and difficult situations to be resolved. If there are stumbling blocks, the relationship and technical capability are used to overcome them. Because "success" is mutually described many times, both parties know the instant it is achieved.

Trust. Mutual success builds trust, and understanding moves to a new level. Your partner continues to more fully explore your technical capability and become more comfortable with the relationship. When the partner has a manufacturing need, they come to you first. Trust leads to further discovery and development of technical capability and the relationship. Your partner will want to work with you and trust you with their success.

Jeff Dudley is the business operations director of Dowpharma and Dow Ventures, jrdudley@dow.com