Worth Reading in Tech Transfer: Funding, Pruning, and Pitching
This past summer saw quite a few news stories and commentary that we here at Fuentek think are worth reading for technology transfer offices (TTOs). One in particular — Daniel Isenberg’s “Do Startups Really Create Lots of Good Jobs?” — was considered all by itself. Today’s post provides even more grist for the tech transfer mill. Enjoy!
Leveraging Funding to Enhance R&D Investments and Tech Transfer Success
Study Highlights the Domino Effect of Federal Research Funding
University of Oregon • August 16, 2016
A new analysis has found that, controlling for prior funding trends, a 1% increase in federal funding was associated with increases from industry (0.468%), non-profit organizations (0.411%), and state and local governments (0.21%). “The results suggest that organizations that fund science are all part of a system that is positively influenced by federal research investment activity.” Hat-tip to the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership, which posted this story on LinkedIn.)
From Laura Schoppe: Here we are again, with another end-of-the-fiscal-year push to pass a federal budget. The president issued his FY17 budget request back in February (and ScienceInsider analyzed those science funding requests here). But as noted by the American Institute of Physics, it’s likely that we’ll find ourselves under continuing resolution again. (BTW, AIP now offers a useful Federal Science Budget Tracker online tool.) I hope members of Congress see this study’s findings and realize the role they play in fostering innovation when making their funding decisions.
Do I Have to Leave to Launch?
Science • May 10, 2016
This article discusses the “growing group of senior scientists” at universities across the country who are “tapping consulting allowances, participating in entrepreneurial training, and negotiating leaves of absence to create and manage commercial ventures—and experimenting with new methods to make it all work.”
From Danielle McCulloch: This article nicely illustrates the various ways that universities are enabling researchers to be entrepreneurial. Quite frankly, this is great to see since not every academic wants to be a CEO, but they often want to actively participate in the commercialization of their innovations. I also came across this example of a Washington State University researcher pursuing the best of both worlds thanks, in part, to “instrumental and invaluable” support from the WSU Commercialization Office. That support included a Commercialization Gap Fund grant for translational research. Just as each technology needs its own strategy when pursuing commercial success, inventors need various options for participating in that commercialization effort. And sometimes flexibility and funding from the university can make all the difference.
Speaking of translational research funds, our Becky Stoughton will be moderating a session called “Found in Translation: Making the Most of Gap Funding” at the AUTM-Eastern Region Meeting in Philadelphia Sept. 29-30, 2016. If you’re there, be sure to check it out, with representatives from Emory, Michigan State, the Univ. of New Hampshire, and the Univ. of Vermont.
Market-Focused IP Management
Common Afflictions of University Patent Portfolios
IPwatchdog.com • July 10, 2016
This commentary by the Soryn IP Group’s Fatih Ozluturk identifies situations that occur frequently enough in university portfolios that they can be considered trends. We were particularly taken with trends #2 and #3:
- Not enough attention to portfolio pruning as a way of containing cost
- Not making use of dispassionate advise from outside parties
From Laura Schoppe: I appreciate the author’s use of “pruning,” as Fuentek has found gardening to be a useful metaphor for managing the intellectual property portfolio. Whether we’re optimizing the IP portfolio as a whole or analyzing a single innovation and planning the technology marketing effort, we use market-based criteria as the shears to help our clients decide whether to invest in commercializing a piece of IP (and, if so, how) or to direct that energy toward cultivating other IP with greater potential.
Being an objective third-party, Fuentek analyzes the data we gather and its implications and then provides honest recommendations that maximize opportunities for success and avoid pursuing paths that are not likely to be successful or provide sufficient return on investment. To learn more, check out the IP Management Insights on our website or contact us to discuss our Fuentek can support your TTO.
The Go-to-Market Approach Startups Need to Adopt
Harvard Business Review • June 10, 2016
This article provides an example to illustrate the authors’ thesis: “startups need to take their customers’ perspective to understand how to approach the market.” Similar to the “consultative selling” approach, obtaining customer feedback “needs to start before the go-to-market approach is developed.”
From Becky Stoughton: Frequent readers of the Fuentek blog will not be surprised to hear from me on this issue. 🙂 As I’ve discussed before, market feedback is key whether you are a startup launching a new product or a TTO seeking a license for a technology in the IP portfolio. I especially appreciated that Ashkenas and Finn pointed out that the strategy for going to market is “an ongoing process, constantly informed by a deeper and deeper understanding of customer needs.”
These concepts of connecting with the customer and viewing a strategy as a “living document” apply not only when you’re going to be marketing specific technologies or products to potential licensees/customers but also when targeting your internal “customers” — in the case of a university TTO, getting faculty on board with tech transfer. It even applies to setting your procedures for the license application process. So make it part of your mindset. Fuentek does, and it’s worked out well for our clients.
How MasterCard Vets Innovation
PYMNTS.com • June 22, 2016
Presenting insights from the credit card company’s chief information officer Ed McLaughlin, this article discusses the “what” test and the “why” test he uses to decide “which of the many ideas he’s pitched to examine further and which are better left on the sidelines.”
From Danielle McCulloch: What struck me in reading this article is that the questions McLaughlin uses in the context of innovators pitching their ideas for investment by (or partnership with) his company are a lot like the questions we consider when embarking on a tech transfer effort. In evaluating whether the technology fits the market and then, if so, ramping up for marketing, we analyze such factors as ease of implementation and stage of development (his what questions) as well as market need and readiness for the technology and its advantages/benefits (his why questions). Time and again Fuentek has found that these factors provide valuable insight on the technology’s potential for success. And looking at the value chain reveals whom to contact to get these questions answered.
And speaking of pitches…
Effective Communication in Technology Marketing
Pitch Perfect: Four Tips To Tell Your Startup Story Better
Entrepreneur Middle East • July 10, 2016
This article emphasizes the importance of (1) mastering the one-line description of your business, (2) demonstrating its competitive advantage and ability to dominate the market, (3) understanding the users’ perspective and needs (their “journey”), and (4) effective storytelling.
From Becky Stoughton: The great advice in this article illustrates yet again how best practices preached to startups also apply to TTOs. Fadoul’s four recommendations align with our advice:
- The One-Liner: Have an effective technology overview that presents not only the benefits and applications for a technology but also why it is better than competing technologies.
- The Dominator Effect: Use market feedback to understand the competitive situation of the industry you’re targeting so you can clearly determine whether and how a technology is likely to be able to get traction in a market.
- The Users’ Journey: Gathering market feedback also helps you to understand the perspective and needs of potential users.
- Narrate Like a Boss: When it comes to effective storytelling, consider these pitching suggestions Laura offered to engineering students at N.C. State University. In particular, be sure to check out our webcast on using the AMMO to construct your marketing message.
BTW, I’ll be moderating a session on “Applying Lean Startup Principles to Tech Transfer” at the 2017 AUTM national meeting in March in Hollywood, Florida. We’ll have more information on that in the new year.
What are you reading these days? Post a comment below or feel free to send us a private message.