The gap between initial research and successful commercialization is often referred to as the Valley of Death and represents a significant challenge for young startups.
While a startup founder gets to focus exclusively on crossing the Valley of Death, university venture and tech transfer staff have even more on their plate. Between supporting the creation of startups and spin outs, coordinating sale and licensing of intellecutal property, sponsored research agreements, and more, staff need all the support they can get to ensure that university technologies cross the Valley of Death.
We’ve put together a list with a few ways institutions can do to coach their researchers to successful commercialization, even under serious time constraints.
1. Educate and navigate.
Your researchers turn to you to for guidance on how to get their innovations out to the world. Some have entrepreneurial aspirations themselves, and others just want to make sure their inventions are used. Regardless, both parties (TTO & researcher) need to understand all of the potential avenues and decide together how to proceed to advance the research.
2. Tap into your university’s resources.
If your university has graduate business and law schools, tap into them! Cross functional work between colleges creates an ad hoc incubator while providing opportunity for students of different disciplines to apply their principles to help research succeed.
3. Step outside the federal funding box.
A lot of research gets lost on the road to product development for many reasons, one being funding. While many universities rely on federal funding at their main source of income, there are other resources to tap into that can help provide the resources needed for emerging technology to be transformed to product like angel investors, gap funds, SBIR, private interest groups, industry to name a few.
4. Expand and nurture your network.
In business and development, networking is key. Creating a network outside of your university, is important, and expanding and nurturing your internal network to discover opportunities is often overlooked but equally important. For example, if a corporation has inquired regarding a spin out, what if the person who handles licensing has something of interest but doesn’t know? Taking a holistic internal relationship approach can help both upstream and downstream activities.