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5 Questions Tech Scouts Have Before a Technology Collaboration

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Date: October 07, 2016 Posted by: Elysia Cooper In:Tips for Institutions

Corporate technology scouts are undoubtedly inundated with information while at the same time they face the constant struggle of defining what exactly it is that they are looking for. To help you prepare your researchers for industry collaboration, below are the five key questions that tech scouts are thinking about before they contact you and during discussions from the perspective of our resident tech scout Leopold Demiddeleer.

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Is it a fit for my organization?

This is complex and time-consuming due to technical complexity. Technology scouts have to work through multiple scientific and engineering claims while working with the researcher to determine know-how requirements, and so forth. The problem is that it’s so easy to put a lot of time in on something that looks like a fit, and bang – it’s dead.

Bear in mind that while many scouts think they want the path with the fastest green light. But just as valuable, is a red light – an early and meaningful one – so you avoid misspent time and money. Alertness for “false fits” is critical to scouting efficiency – being able to say confidently, “Nope, despite the theoretical fit, it’s not for us.”

What are the key questions a tech scout must determine for fit?

  1. Is the research ongoing? This is a big deal for effective transfer to get know-how with it. Getting the author with the patent brings critical know-howuseful for optimizing, and sometime just to make it work. 

  2. What are the next steps of this research? Is there a meaningful summary that can be provided to me?

  3. Has the researcher clearly summarized what they want? This can be difficult for a few reasons: focus, disclosure sensitivity, timing, prior practice, and so forth.

Does this university display venture creation?

While this is not a sole-determing factor, it does garner more attention. I’m not sure why TTOs and research administrators don’t exploit it more, because it’s a strong signal for tech scouts. Unless non-market-based incentives distort startup formation, activity in creating spinouts and in licensing to startups are clear and positive signs that other research is likely to have not just academic significance, but commercial potential.

Are startups riskier as licensees?

The issue for the tech scout is – are the people with the technical insights putting their time and money into work with commercial goals? Looking at a patent description is okay, but it’s nowhere near enough to know if it’s a fit with my company, I have to do a lot more work. But startups connect the dots for me: here’s a technology that a smart team is actively trying to commercialize.

That’s a really good sign for tech scouts market-based solutions are motivating the researcher, not just peer recognition of scientific leadership. So, even with a flawed process – industry insights can bring a lot. Also works for available technologies when TTO explains expected next steps to develop toward commercialization, that’s how industry thinks.

Remember, investigators hitched to a startup aren’t just making a theoretical connection between research and marketplace: they’re betting on it. As a tech scout, I’m far more interested in getting to know a new institution with vigorous startup-stage licensing/new ventures because it shows that they have investigators interested in real products for the market.

License, acquire, or something else?

This question provides varied answers and they typically don’t show until you get into the deal. For example, we can really like the research, but aren’t satisfied with published IP – say, because the patent wasn’t written to protect what we needed – this happens a lot. Even with smart and successful TTOs guiding the process, patent applications can easily get written “academically” and not meet industrial licensee needs. 

Do you want to take the first step and show corporate technology scouts that your research is ready?

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