When it comes to securing partnerships, funding, and interest on technologies and/or startups, there are a multitude of things that can halt the process – most of which are outside the sphere of control of the TTO or the PI. [A lot of them can be attributed to the Valley of Death] With all of those unknowns floating around, it is important to take some time and figure out how to execute what is in your sphere of control.
This is where the TTO staff can step in and build a relationship with the PI and work with them together and one of the first spheres of control that the TTO must address. A key role of the TTO is to be a viable partner – a place where science based researchers can come for guidance on matters outside of their immediate knowledge; including legal and general business strategy. A successful office will take this opportunity to mentor PIs in how to market and pitch their discoveries.
Which brings us to a second item in the sphere of influence: helping researchers successfully pitch their ideas. Often times it is difficult for inventors to funnel their ideas of how their innovation can be applicable in a commercial setting. Like any pitch, lack of focus typically will result in lack of interest from potential investors or collaborators.
Below are some tips on how to help your researchers tell their story better so that when they meet with potential research partners, investors and angels; they will be heard in a meaningful way.
How did they discover this invention? Where did their idea come from? What there a gap in the market? What is an accidental discovery that was applied to a real world problem? Do they have a personal back story? All of these questions will help your PIs and researchers start the foundation of the story (pitch) and draw in potential partners as to why they are listening.
Help them describe their technology with ubiquitous language. It is easy for scientific researchers to use overly technical jargon – which will be necessary at some point in discussions. One technique is to encourage the use of analogies. Helping your researchers simply and easily describe the technology will help draw more potential collaborators into the discussion.
Start formulating the reasons why potential partners will want to work with your university and researchers; and quantify your answer. Will you be more cost effective? Provide better results and accuracy? Take less time?
Offering one-on-one sessions or even take groups of PIs and researchers and host short seminars on how to prepare for their commercialization ventures. The most successful offices are approaching researchers as partners and vice versa.