To help ESRs identifying if there is a commercialisation application for the work they are doing. To provide an overview of the commercialisation and exploitation process (market assessment, types of IP and how to manage them, money, the team, the plan).
The session is divided in two parts. While the first part is focused on the theory, the second part is a practical exercise where ESRs work in teams to do a commercialisation canvas taking the template at UCD Commercialisation and Exploitation division at Nova as reference. At the start of the class, a short video with an history of successful entrepreneurs is presented to the ESRs. It is explained how to license the technology from University to manufacturer. Recommendations are given to keep a commercialisation notebook to keep record of ideas, people that you talk to, etc. Innovation occurs at an intersection of technology, business and people. The commercialisation process develops as follows: (i) Why technology is better than existing solution, (ii) invention disclosure form, (iii) commercial potential (the market to place the product), (iv) protection strategy, (v) commercial strategy, (vi) license or spin-out.
When applying for commercialisation funding, it is typically best to go for a narrow segment of the market. When coming out with a commercialisation plan, it is necessary to be become familiar with regulations that influence how the sector works. Also to check that there is an opportunity in the market. Information on the market can be found in University library and state agencies, patent websites, academic papers and trade publications, academic and industry conferences (check competing products), … In the case of TRUSS, two ESRs already have patents of their own. It must be noted that while in University, inventors will be rewarded from IP, in companies, companies take the reward from IP. A distinction between assigning a patent and licensing a patent is established. If you assign a patent to a company, if company fails, you lose the patent to pay debts. If you license a patent and the company fails, the University recovers the patent. Patents is a form of IP that is easier to protect, legal right with a concrete way of enforcement (protection for 20 years). Other forms of IP are revised: copyright (protecting expression of ideas as opposed to ideas, i.e., software development), know how, trademarks, design rights. Patents must be novel, not obvious to experts and capable of industrial application. Care must be placed upon avoiding disclosing a potential patent in a conference given that once it becomes public domain, it will not become a patent (i.e., novelty is destroyed). You have to decide about filing a patent at the beginning, before it is published anywhere. Once patent is granted, it gives you the right to exploit it within a geographical region. I have to decide which countries where to file a patent.
There are two routes to commercialisation: (a) create a start-up company, (b) license the technology to a existing company (my technology enhancing one of the company products). Sources of funding include sales money (i.e., provide services for customers. When raising money, there is no money like sales money, but it takes time), friends and family, state or international funding (SFI, Enterprise Ireland), angel investors and venture capital. The latter will want a percentage of your company.
In the 2nd half of the session, ESRs were divided in three groups that used post-it notes to fill the nine building blocks (problem, solution, value proposition, key resources, customers, key roadmap activities, commercialisation route, funding requirements and plan, and competitors) of a commercialisation canvas that will be the basis for the commercialisation plan. The first part of the process is brainstorming, when ideas are placed even if they are not validated yet. The teams were organised to be as multidisciplinary as possible to exploit diversity. A commercialisation plan is then formulated from the practical tool given by the canvas. In the canvas, you pick on problem to work on, come up with as many customers as you can, group the customers into segments. If you struggle to come up with customers, then, it is not a good idea and it is best to choose other problem. Summarizing, 1- Look at the market, who will pay for it? 2 – Decide how to manage your IP, 3 – Think about your team, 3 – Best solution is at intersection of business, technology and people, 5 – Use the commercialisation canvas with your team to brainstorm, and to quickly validate ideas and make a plan.