In a presentation to the Licensing Executive Society earlier in the year, I reversed the approach in reviewing programs to better understand how a program starts and grows. Programs vary based on their origin, whether university, government or private.
University programs tend to be embedded but separate from the technology transfer office. In the US in particular they are funded through philanthropy. This is difficult to replicate in other parts of the world thus making these types of programs less likely. They have the broadest aims with increased commercialisation output, student education and faculty experience all important to the supporters of the programs. The main challenge for these types of programs is balancing the needs and processes of commercial and university entities.
Government programs have the largest reach and access. Their main aim is the development of high value jobs in the country or region. The source of applications is both private and public depending on the program. They all use an independent project selection committee process made up of technical and business experts. This adds both appropriate expertise and access to a network for the projects. In addition, an expert in the area will project manager each project providing guidance and market access. One of the challenges for these programs is dealing with projects that turn into companies and move overseas, thus creating jobs elsewhere not necessarily locally.
Private programs are the most commercially driven with many listed on stock exchanges. As it takes time to bring in sustainable revenues, most go back to the market on multiple occasions to raise additional capital. The benefit over traditional venture capital is that these organisations do not need to prematurely dispose of assets, can accept a cash flow business outcome and have the ability to continue to raise funds. The challenge is that they need to maintain momentum and keep selling the benefits of early stage commercialisation to the market.
In reviewing the origin of several programs it is interesting to try to identify an event or series of events that helped launch and evolve the programs. There is often a build up over time, with several incremental increases in credibility and track record. From the outside this can look like serendipity but it is more a process of building the base that a program can be launched from. This is the key to the creation of a program, as well as envisaging the program itself, you need to plan and execute on the build up. That is, bringing together the right resources, creating the building blocks and developing credibility and track record.