Transferring research technology into a startup requires a process approach as the path from the lab to the market, from raw technology to product, is long and risky.
Great insight from Babs Carryer, New Venturist:
“There are lots of ways to screw up in entrepreneurship. There are particular challenges in commercializing university technologies. Getting from the lab to the marketplace, from benchtop to bedside, is fraught with many valleys of death. This is the first of a series of posts about those pitfalls. In this post I describe three case studies of real things that happened to real people around intellectual property, founder partnerships, and the interaction between business and science people.
Background. In my work with Carnegie Mellon’s Project Olympus, for which I fill the role of Embedded Entrepreneur, and in my past as co-founder and President of LaunchCyte, I have worked closely with academic researchers and faculty inventors. My goal is to commercialize breakthrough innovations into startup companies that develop products, provide jobs, and, hopefully, create wealth (so that we can do this all over again).
While there is much literature out there for budding entrepreneurs, I find that the material is not suited to academic entrepreneurs. I define academic entrepreneurship as commercialization stemming from deep technical research conducted within an academic institution. Academic entrepreneurship is the process of bringing to market the innovations discovered in the academic laboratories. There are two commercialization options for academic entrepreneurs: licensing to an existing company or creating a startup. My focus is on the latter…”
Our faculty and students continually create exciting technologies and innovations that have great potential in a wide range of markets, from software to pharmaceutical manufacturing, which is why we have established this fund…
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Rutgers has established a “Disruptive Innovation Fund” through an agreement signed this week with IP Navigation Group of Dallas, which has committed up to $1 million to support commercialization of technologies developed at the university.
“Our faculty and students continually create exciting technologies and innovations that have great potential in a wide range of markets, from software to pharmaceutical manufacturing, which is why we have established this fund,” said Michael Pazzani, vice president of research and economic development. “It’s the recognition of the ability of our faculty and students to solve the nation’s most important problems and bring these solutions to market that motivated IP Navigation Group to make this significant commitment.”
Erich Spangenberg, founder and chairman of IP Navigation Group, said: “Our firm believes that Rutgers is a leader in two important areas: talented faculty and students and an approach by the university’s leadership that facilitates the ability of this talent to flourish. That’s why we’re making this investment.”
Spangenberg says the intent is that the fund be “technology agnostic,” adding, “If it is a ‘big’ idea, we should not be limiting where the fund is deployed…”
Lawmakers from Silicon Valley, Colorado and Texas are jockeying to win one of three satellite branches of the Patent and Trademark Office authorized in the law, seeing the projects as magnets for jobs, business and bragging rights.
“While the America Invents Act revamps the patent system for the first time in six decades, it also includes provisions to set up patent offices outside the Washington area for the first time. Those new offices are to be funded by patent fees — not direct government expenditures — providing fiscal conservatives a little cover.
Politics, however, is front and center in the lobbying under way. Even though the law calls for three new offices, one location has already been decided.
Under the law, one of the offices is slated for Detroit and already has a name: The Elijah J. McCoy United States Patent and Trademark Office. McCoy was a prominent African-American inventor. While Michigan certainly fits the criteria as a region with economic need, it also can claim 105,502 patents since 1977. And the state is home to thousands of engineers, some displaced from the auto industry and now looking for work…”
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The analysis examined the performance of the university’s startups over the past 30 years — including the 104 spinoff companies launched by the U-M Technology Transfer Office over the last decade. U-M analyzed how the university’s endowment would have performed if it had invested in those startups at an early stage.
“The University of Michigan’s decision to invest up to $25 million in its own startup companies offers a telling glimpse at how the university is balancing its investment pursuits with a stated desire to boost the economy.
The move also revealed a private debate in which U-M executives clashed over whether the university’s own spinoff companies were worthy of cash.
U-M President Mary Sue Coleman announced Wednesday morning that U-M’s $7.8 billion endowment would deliver up to $500,000 to every early-stage U-M startup that has already secured venture capital from an outside source.
It’s an admission that the university has missed out on past investment opportunities that would have helped its own startup companies expand — and earned the university’s endowment big financial returns…”
Study finds that the distinctive missions of federal laboratories, management strategies and resources, statutory requirements and incentives for researchers were key factors determining an agency’s particular approach to commercialization of federal laboratory results.
NIST Press Release:
A new report sponsored by the U.S. Commerce Department (DOC) – the results of the first independent study of its kind in almost 10 years-describes both barriers and effective strategies for the transfer of technology developed in federal laboratories to industry for commercialization.
Based on a literature review and interviews with technology transfer experts at 26 different federal research laboratories as well as 33 additional organizations, the study was released on June 14, 2011, at a meeting of the department’s National Advisory Committee on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, held at Howard University.
Agencies interviewed as part of the study also suggested a range of strategies for increasing the speed and extent of dissemination of federal technologies. Strategies included streamlining licensing; increasing cash, royalties, awards or other incentives that reward researchers for excellent technology transfer efforts; and raising the visibility of available technologies through showcase events, intellectual property databases, and networking at conferences and workshops.
…some elements of IBM’s IP licensing strategy might improve the way U.S. research universities manage the patents that result from publicly funded on-campus research projects.
From Melba Kurman:
“Can U.S. research universities learn from IBM’s intellectual property (IP) licensing strategies? I don’t mean that universities should behave like a for-profit corporation and attempt to wring revenue out of the plethora of intellectual activity that takes place on campus. This wouldn’t work for several reasons. I mean that some elements of IBM’s IP licensing strategy might improve the way U.S. research universities manage the patents that result from publicly funded on-campus research projects…”
The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the Technology Commercialization Office of the University of Utah, its recent startup stats, and current business model…
Since 2005, the U. has aggressively pushed technology into the marketplace, using graduate students to develop business plans, help faculty turn inventions into products and in many cases, establishing the businesses and pursuing grants. The process is shrouded in secrecy because of confidentiality agreements, yet the TCO operates outside of a policy framework and with limited faculty oversight.
Meanwhile, some entrepreneurs who want to license technology complain that the TCO is slow to propose terms, costing them precious time and sweat. When the terms finally come, entrepreneurs say, the terms won’t sustain a successful business.
Comments posted by SLT readers are an interesting read as well.