The Missing Link in Innovation and Commercialization

The Globe and Mail article on commercializing research by Terrence Belford touches a few very important points. You may read the article at: Commercializing research: We’ve got the brains, now we need some brawn.

Terrence points to the missing link, when he quotes “…when it comes to university research we are among the top nations in the world but when it comes to commercializing that research we rank well below most industrial nations.” He further quotes “Universities don’t feel that [commercialization] is their job and industry is not willing to assume the risk and financial burden to take discoveries to the next stage — proof of concept, identifying potential applications and building prototypes.”

Universities have established technology transfer offices to perform this task but my experience shows that they do not help bridge the gap. Instead, it typically adds to the burden and accomplishes very few results.

Having been through this “no man’s land” a few times, I have learned first-hand that the expectations at technology transfer offices of universities and those of industrial partners are very different. The universities want to get the technology out of their hands too early for the liking of the industry. They mostly miss the fact that the transition from basic research to development is not a simple hand-over. It is a collaborative effort, where research continues to wrap up while commercial development ramps up. The overlapping activities and the investment (both effort and money) that goes with it appear to be in this no-man’s land.

In fact, bridging the gap and turning more ideas to commercial successes are not that complicated. It requires the following activities, where both parties have to be involved and collaborate to achieve a successful result:
1) Technology expertise
2) Market definition
3) Product definition
4) Technology tweak (if necessary) to meet product definition
5) Development team building
6) Knowledge transfer from Research to Development team

When universities stop at step (1) and do not participate in the next steps, commercialization hits a major obstacle. Therefore, the only successful examples of commercialization appears to be when the technology developer takes a personal interest in commercialization and gets involved in the next steps. This is great if the inventor also has commercialization skills and interest in moving from research to becoming an entrepreneur. A more effective approach is to engage organizations that are designed to bridge the gap using a disciplined approach and proven practices.

I hope you find this posting helpful. I welcome your thoughts and feedback on the subject. If you are interested in commercialization services, please visit Intrascope Consulting.

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