TEES hosts first Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Boot Camp

January 21, 2016
| By: Amy Halbert

Navigating the challenging path from research lab to marketplace was the topic of a deep-dive experiential learning workshop during the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s (TEES) first Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, hosted by the TEES Office of Commercialization and Entrepreneurship (C&E).

The event, held on Jan. 13 at the Emerging Technologies Building at Texas A&M University, focused on providing Texas A&M and TEES researchers with valuable training on the commercialization process, including IP basics, licensing and sponsored research, as well as new company and venture formation. 

To help faculty acquire the information and experience needed to successfully market their intellectual property, the C&E office employed a boot camp model, comprised of one day of intensive training followed by 16 weeks of one-on-one sessions with TEES entrepreneurs.

During the full-day boot camp, participants were divided into five teams, and each team was provided with a real piece of intellectual property that had been disclosed through The Texas A&M University System. In the morning session, teams were guided through the steps they would take to pitch their technology to potential industry sponsors. In the afternoon, they learned how they could form their own start-up companies around their research.

At the end of the training over the next 16 weeks, participants will have created a personalized business and commercialization strategy, and will pitch their commercialization plans to judges at the TEES Emerging Entrepreneurs Competition on May 19, which is a mock competition to give researchers real-world experience pitching their ideas.  

More than 30 TEES and Texas A&M researchers, post-docs and students took part in round-table team sessions and one-on-one discussions with TEES entrepreneurs from the Office of Commercialization and Entrepreneurship. The C&E office was established in 2014 to bring together a staff with experience in commercialization and industry to facilitate a culture of commercialization among TEES faculty.

“We found that our faculty’s incredible research was creating significant intellectual property, but an internal analysis showed that they did not have the resources or the training they needed to commercialize their inventions,” said Dr. Balakrishna Haridas, program manager and head of entrepreneurship programs and professor of practice at Texas A&M.  “A lot of faculty, once they have their intellectual property created, rely on the patent to sell itself in the licensing marketplace. In reality, with the current economic climate and investor behavior, we need to be a lot more proactive by bringing in sophisticated business and techno-commercial tools from industry to coach researchers on the methodologies for commercialization and help them enhance industry-sponsored research toward licensing, or in those situations that demand it, create start-up companies around TEES inventions. The TEES C&E staff is the industry resource, with many of them already with decades of industry experience as corporate executives and serial entrepreneurs.

“Industry-sponsored research can be the fastest path to commercialization. You have a mature company that supports your research and intellectual property, and is ready to license it through the relationship you have created. The timeframe to the marketplace for a start up is more fluid. To build a successful company can take three years, or it can take five to 10 years. You just never know, but in some situations this is a useful path, and may be the only venue if the value proposition is highly disruptive. Our office recognized this very early and decided to pursue both paths as part of our training and offerings.   

“The new reality is that the country wants us to realize the investment that we all make by contributing our tax dollars toward research. We can only do that if we have a cultural shift among faculty, and we also put systems in place that chaperone entrepreneurial faculty along the path to commercialization.”

TEES researchers who are interested in learning about intellectual property disclosures and filing procedures, generating industry sponsored research, or starting companies are invited to contact Kristen Duckworth or Balakrishna Haridas with the TEES Office of Commercialization & Entrepreneurship.

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