Tuesday, 12 July 2011

International proof of concept models.


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.  

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Elements of a successful program.


Proof of concept programs are designed to improve the chances of creating businesses from public and private research. They take unincorporated ideas and provide expertise and funding to validate the technology and the market enough to secure further funding or the first customer.
In order to review the programs I broke them down into five elements:
Formation - Where do you start in creating a program?
Operations
- people - Who should be involved?
- process - How should it be run?
- funding - How much funding is needed to achieve the outcomes?
Outcomes - What is the aim of the program?
The answers to the key questions provides a useful list of lessons about how to do it and what to avoid, the benefits of asking the questions and the challenges faced by existing programs. A summary of these can be found in a presentation I gave to the Knowledge Commercialisation Australia conference in November 2010.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Bridging the gap.


Thank you for coming to my website. I have primarily set it up to distribute the report I wrote about my Churchill Trust funded trip to the US, UK and Israel reviewing proof of concept programs.
These programs provide money and expertise to validate technologies and markets for research outcomes.
The difficulties of creating businesses from inventions are recognised worldwide. Bridging this “innovation gap” is one of the keys to increasing successful commercialisation. The study was motivated by seeing too many great ideas fail to bridge the gap. I met with 28 program managers,
entrepreneurs and investors at 20 organisations across the university, government and private sector, to see how they did it and why they were successful.
In summary the keys to creating a successful program were:
• Involvement of external experts;
• Close management of projects and acceptance of failure; and
• Ensuring there is enough support to develop a project so it will attract follow-on funding.
Please download the report if you are interested and share it with anyone else you think may find it useful.