I’ve talked before on Fuentek’s blog about using a two-step evaluation process to help our clients prioritize their technology commercialization and licensing opportunities. I’d like to elaborate on the first step: technology screening.
In a screening, you do a rapid analysis of market research and intellectual property (IP) information to figure out if a technology has enough commercial potential to warrant the more in-depth step of a market-based assessment. (Check out this blog post and webcast about proactive, strategic IP management to see where these two steps fit into the larger effort.)
This might sound a bit like having a meeting to decide whether or not to have a meeting. But there is tremendous value in scratching the surface at first. (I’ll talk about the costs associated with not doing a screening in a later post.)
With the right research, an experienced tech transfer professional can figure out pretty quickly—in about 2 hours—whether an innovation has what it takes to make further investment in it worthwhile:
- Has the technology been publicly disclosed and, if so, when (i.e., have you missed the 1-year statutory bar deadline for filing for a patent)?
- Is it evolutionary or revolutionary?
- Is it broadly applicable or relevant only to a few (or even a single) industries?
- What is the estimated market size and how fast is it growing (or is it shrinking)?
- Will it be easy/inexpensive or difficult/costly for licensees to adopt it?
- What is the technology’s level of development?
- How mature is the market? Has the window of opportunity closed, is it open now, or has it not yet opened?
Believe it or not, these are questions that can be answered well enough in a rapid screening to say either “Yes, this should be studied more closely” or “No, it’s too unlikely that this will be successful and we should spend our money on commercializing other technologies.” This type of rapid screening is particularly important when you have a backlog of technologies in your IP/patent portfolio. (We have a podcast about patent portfolio screening that you can access free along with a quick registration.)
Of course, it helps to know where to look for the data that help you answer these questions. At Fuentek, our go-to sources for IP data are the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Free Patents Online, and some fee-based services. Most of the market data we use for screenings is available free off the Internet. It also helps to know how to use good keywords for your searches. (More on that later.)
The point is: you need to reverse your thinking. The question isn’t: Will this technology be successfully licensed? Frankly, a lot more effort has to happen before you know the answer to that. The real question at this point in the process is: Is this technology unlikely to have commercialization success?
Now that is a question you can answer, and answer quickly with a screening.
If you’d like to know more about technology screening, check out our webinar about how to do technology screenings. Although the webinar is geared toward university tech transfer interns, the information provided is relevant for any TTO. (More later about why Fuentek recommends assigning the task of screenings to someone other than your TTO’s technology managers.)
Do you perform rapid screenings or some other preliminary evaluation in your tech transfer office? Tell us about them by leaving a comment below or contacting us here.