Intellectual Property and Technology Commercialization

Technology commercialization (or technology transfer) is the process of translating innovations from the research lab into products in the marketplace where they can make a real world impact. This is complementary to the process of publishing research findings.

As part of the technology commercialization process, the university may explore intellectual property rights related to your discoveries and identify development partners outside of the university. Or you may decide in consultation with the Innovation Institute to explore creating a startup company around the innovation(s).

If you have any questions about intellectual property or the technology commercialization process, contact the Innovation Institute.

Once you believe you have a potential invention as a result of your research, you should submit an invention disclosure to the Innovation Institute (one of the teams in the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship). The invention disclosure is a short, electronically submitted document that describes how the invention works, its advantages, and other items required in protecting your idea. It is important to include all contributors or authors, including non-Pitt innovators, and funding sources in the disclosure.

The invention disclosure is an important item because it alerts the Innovation Institute that you have created something new and gets Innovation Institute staff started on exploring the possibility of filing a patent application or establishing a copyright, as well as evaluating your invention for commercial viability. The invention disclosure submission form and instructions for completing it can be found at https://www.innovation.pitt.edu/invention-disclosure/.

The invention disclosure itself is not a patent application but rather a collection of information that can be used to start that process if a patent is needed. You should consider working closely with the Innovation Institute to make certain, you do not publish the results of your research or present it at a conference prior to filing a patent or appropriately protecting the work. If not handled properly, this type of disclosure could jeopardize your chances of getting patent protection, and negatively impact the commercial viability of your invention.

In general, Intellectual Property (IP) refers to any product of creativity. In a University context, this includes technical innovations, inventions, discoveries, and scholarly works of art and authorship (including software) created in the course of academic pursuits at Pitt.

Intellectual Property is protected by federal government legislation in the form of patents, copyrights, and trademarks. IP can also be protected around the globe via treaties, conventions and/or local country laws.

FAQs

Patents

A patent is a grant issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office that covers an invention and gives its owner the right to exclude all others from making, using, or selling the invention within the United States, its territories, and possessions.

The innovators are generally the owners of a patent unless they have assigned their ownership rights to another party, such as an employer. An employer can be a for-profit company or a non-profit entity.

A patent can only be granted for inventions such as machines, processes, compositions of matter, and articles of manufacture. The invention must be new, useful, and non-obvious.

The Innovation Institute can help you determine if your invention may be patentable.

In general, natural phenomena, laws of nature, and abstract ideas are not eligible for patent protection. For example, a new chemical compound may be patented as a new composition of matter, but the discovery of a molecule that exists in nature would not be patentable.

Software typically is not patentable unless it executes a new technical process or improves the functionality of a device.

Also, works of authorship are not eligible for patents.

Although most software methods are not eligible for patenting, certain technical software innovations and computer-implemented processes are still patentable.

A patent is protected for 20 years from the date of filing the nonprovisional (full) patent application.

Public disclosure is the communication of an idea, either verbally or in written form, to an individual or a group that does not have the contractual obligation to keep that material confidential.

In the United States, a patent application can be filed within 12 months of the first public disclosure of an invention. In most foreign countries, an invention is unpatentable unless the application is filed before public disclosure.

Examples of public disclosure may include:

  • an abstract that appears in a journal
  • a presentation at a scientific conference
  • a Ph.D. dissertation
  • conversations with third parties without a confidentiality agreement

No. Patents may also be granted in foreign countries.

The procedures for filing a patent, the regulations for patentability, and the terms of a patent grant vary considerably from country to country. The overall cost of obtaining a patent increases dramatically as more countries are selected for patent protection.

When it is determined that patent protection is the most appropriate form of IP protection for Pitt-owned inventions, the University will normally file a provisional patent application.

Filing a provisional patent application establishes a priority date for the invention and gives the Innovation Institute and the innovator time to assess the commercial potential of the invention. The priority date is important given that ownership goes to the first organization to file a patent–which may not be the first one that invented the subject matter in the patent. The provisional application may serve as the basis for a nonprovisional (full) patent application or international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application if warranted.

In any event, a full patent application must be filed within 12 months of filing a provisional patent application.

For IP that is not owned by Pitt, the pursuit of a patent is the responsibility of the innovator(s).

Patent applications are filed and handled by patent attorneys outside of the University who are selected and directed by the Innovation Institute. Patent attorneys work closely with Pitt innovators during the process of securing patent protections for Pitt-owned inventions.

For IP that is not owned by Pitt, the pursuit of a patent is the responsibility of the innovator(s).

Copyright

A copyright establishes ownership in a work of authorship. In general, the owner has the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, and sell the work (and allow others to do the same).

A copyright generally covers items such as a piece of software code, a course curriculum, a play, a painting, a musical score, a film, or an architectural work.

When it is determined that copyright protection is appropriate for a Pitt-owned innovation, the innovators will be asked to complete a copyright checklist to confirm authorship, sponsorship, ownership, and third-party rights in the work.

Copyright protection is automatically established at the time that a work of authorship is expressed in a tangible form (written, recorded, etc.). Formal registration is not required to establish ownership but is required to enforce the copyright.

For IP that is not owned by Pitt, the pursuit of copyright protection is the responsibility of the innovator(s).

The following notice should be applied on Pitt-owned works to protect a copyright and inform the public that the University claims ownership of the work.

“Copyright © [Year] UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH. All rights reserved.”

The date in the notice should be the year in which the work is first published.

The following notice should be applied on Pitt-owned works to protect a copyright and inform the public that the University claims ownership of the work.

“Copyright © [Year] UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH. All rights reserved.”

The date in the notice should be the year in which the work is first published.

When faculty publish books or articles in journals, the author will typically assign their rights in the copyright to the publisher. This does not cover the material in the article but the form of the article itself. The Innovation Institute can assist a faculty member in this situation to ensure that the assignment of rights is handled properly.

A patent protects an invention. A copyright covers the actual work of art or authorship but not the idea or concept these works attempt to convey.

A patent protects an invention. A copyright covers the actual work of art or authorship but not the idea or concept these works attempt to convey.

Trade and Service Marks

A trademark is a word, name, symbol, or device (or any combination) used by an organization to identify its goods and distinguish the source of the goods from those of others.

Prior to registration for trademark protection, the designation “TM” after a trademark will give adequate notice of a claim of ownership.

The designation “®” for a trademark may only be used after registering it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

A service mark is a word, name, symbol, or device (or any combination) used by an organization to identify its services and distinguish the source of the services from those of others.

Prior to registration for protection, the designation “SM” after a service mark will give adequate notice of a claim of ownership.

© provides notice of copyright protection.

® provides notice of federal trademark registration

The use of the ® symbol means that a trademark has been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Trademark protection imposes certain obligations on the part of the holder of the mark, such as actual sustained use in commerce. In the case of trademark protection of an innovation, the University’s preference is to rely on use of “TM” or “SM” (i.e., unregistered marks) rather than ® (registered marks) for unlicensed technologies.

Contact the Innovation Institute with any questions about the registration of trademarks or service marks for Pitt-owned intellectual property. If this is for institutional marks – such as the Pitt script name or shield – please contact the Department of Communication or the Office of University Counsel.

For IP that is not owned by Pitt, the registration of trademarks and service marks is the responsibility of the innovator(s).

Protecting IP

The first step in protecting your IP is to communicate your invention, discovery, software, or technology to the Innovation Institute. This communication is called invention disclosure, and it is done by submitting an electronic invention disclosure form at https://www.innovation.pitt.edu/invention-disclosure.

The Institute can then guide you in any other steps appropriate for your IP. Generally, you will work with the Institute to appropriately protect the IP (via patents, copyrights, etc.), determine its potential for commercialization, and identify potential partners for the innovation

All innovations developed at Pitt should be disclosed to the Innovation Institute using the electronic invention disclosure form available at https://www.innovation.pitt.edu/invention-disclosure.

Innovators with appointments at other institutions (e.g., visiting scholars, Veterans Administration, etc.) must declare this on the invention disclosure to Pitt and must also satisfy any reporting obligations they may have with those other institutions.

When submitting an invention disclosure, an innovator may request that the Innovation Institute determine or confirm whether the University has any claim to IP rights. For Pitt-owned innovations, the invention disclosure form includes an assignment of IP rights to the University

The Innovation Institute can help you with the Invention Disclosure form (https://www.innovation.pitt.edu/invention-disclosure). You can contact the Institute using the contact form at https://www.innovation.pitt.edu/contact/.

For immediate assistance, you can call (412) 383-7670.

The invention disclosure form will be assigned to a licensing manager in the Innovation Institute who will evaluate the technology and the available options for protecting the intellectual property.

Note that the terms of grants and sponsored research agreements normally create obligations with respect to the reporting of disclosed inventions, technical data, and copyrightable works such as software.

It is very important to understand that any publication or verbal public disclosure that describes an invention prior to filing a patent application may preclude patenting.

After this type of public disclosure:

  • patenting outside of the United States may not be possible, and
  • patenting within the United States may be prohibited unless a patent is filed within 12 months of the public disclosure.

If you plan to submit an invention disclosure, please do so before public presentation.

Before you present your work publicly, you may want to submit an invention disclosure to the Innovation Institute if it contains an innovation. This invention disclosure is a key first step toward appropriately protecting your IP so that your rights to the discovery are not forfeited.

So, you may want to meet with a licensing manager at the Innovation Institute to discuss the implications of publication upon your patent rights. A decision on patent filing can typically be reached promptly so that publication will not be delayed.

Commercialization

Commercialization is a key form of research impact. The ability to move research results into new or improved products and services in the marketplace creates the direct societal impact a university-based innovator intended the work to have. Further, these investments made in academic research are one of the greatest sources of regional and national economic growth given the new industries they create, the existing organizations they support and the large number of additional jobs they create.

Intellectual property must be protected so that the University and its innovators can provide access to the innovation to a third party. Without the exclusivity afforded by patent/copyright protection, many companies will not make the significant investments necessary to commercialize University IP

Pitt, like all other universities, uses legal contracts called option agreements and license agreements to provide third parties with access to its intellectual property.

An option agreement provides a third party a set amount of time to evaluate the technology. During this time period, the third party cannot commercialize the innovation (i.e., they cannot make, market, and sell it).

A license agreement includes a grant of rights to intellectual property, which the licensee needs to commercialize an invention. In exchange for these rights, the University will typically receive some form of remuneration.

The option or license agreement will contain a collection of legal obligations related to what the third party can and cannot do with the intellectual property.

The Innovation Institute can help you find an industry partner and guide you through the process of licensing your technology.

Pitt faculty, staff, or student innovators may request a license to commercially develop their Pitt-owned inventions or copyrighted materials (for example, to create a startup company). Typically, this request is appropriate when licensing would enhance the transfer of the technology, is consistent with Pitt obligations to third parties, and does not involve a conflict of interest.

Such agreements will include all customary licensing terms such as technology development milestones and requirements to disseminate the technology.

Licensed startup companies (LSCs) are new companies that have an Option or License agreement for Pitt technology. In some cases, the University and/or one or more of its employees, students, or members of their immediate families may have an ownership interest in the company.

Guidance on the Conflict of Interest approval process for new licensed startup company formation can be found here: https://www.coi.pitt.edu/outside-activities/licensed-start-companies.

Additional IP Resources

Taught via Zoom at Columbia University, Fall 2020. Intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks) is an increasingly critical part of almost any business, at almost any stage of growth. This course provides the aspiring business executive, entrepreneur, or scientist an overview of commercial opportunities and risks associated with intellectual property, with a particular focus on technology patents.

Watch Video

View the patent process, patent basics, patent FAQs and more on the USPTO’s main website.

View Site

WIPO is the global forum for intellectual property (IP) services, policy, information and cooperation. They are a self-funding agency of the United Nations, with 193 member states.

View Site

University of Pittsburgh IP Policy

The University of Pittsburgh, as one of the nation’s top research universities, is committed at the highest levels to supporting innovation commercialization as part of its educational mission. That includes entrepreneurial education, patent protection, business opportunity development, innovation licensing, and the ongoing pursuit of start-up companies.

Facilitating the broad range of this endeavor is the University’s Innovation Institute, which serves as the hub of all innovation development and commercialization at the University. The Innovation Institute works closely with Pitt Innovators to explore and develop the commercial potential for their research and ideas, helping to transform them into products and processes for the innovators’ benefit, as well as for the benefit of the University and humankind.

Why does the University foster technology commercialization? Experience has demonstrated that innovations that aren’t IP-protected and licensed to industry and instead are released into the public domain often don’t find their way into everyday use. Few commercial entities in the United States will invest the large sums of money necessary to bring most ideas to market without the guaranteed exclusivity provided for a set period by IP protection.

In addition, the University holds to the belief that future economic success in the United States depends in no small part on the commercial development of university-based technologies that emerge from research funded by federal grants. The federal government invests substantial resources in basic research conducted by universities. Granting agencies today expect their research investments to result not only in new knowledge, but also potentially in new innovations that can enhance the global competitiveness of the U.S. economy. The federal government supported that goal with the enactment of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, effectively giving universities title to federally funded university technologies.

The University encourages you to actively engage in this intellectually challenging pursuit, and the Innovation Institute will gladly support your journey through the process.

Pitt desires to nurture a culture and infrastructure that creates a thriving innovation community. Pitt’s IP policy describes and establishes the rules, roles, obligations, and responsibilities governing IP matters at the University. It also describes the ownership, distribution, and commercial development of technology created by Pitt faculty, staff, students, and others participating in Pitt programs.

The development of Pitt’s IP policy was guided by the following principles: (1) protecting academic freedom to preserve and advance the educational mission of the University; (2) promoting the dissemination of creative and scholarly works, discoveries, and inventions; (3) encouraging, incentivizing, recognizing, and safeguarding the interests of innovators and the campus community to support the creation and further development of knowledge; and (4) adapting to new, changing, and diverse ways in which knowledge and discoveries continue to be made.

The University of Pittsburgh Intellectual Property policy can be found here:

https://www.policy.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/Policies/Research-Innovation/Policy_RI_10.pdf

This policy covers IP developed by full-time or part-time faculty, staff, students, academic visitors, volunteers, postdocs, fellows, trainees, and interns.

In the context of this policy, a student is any individual taking courses at the University. This includes those who are pursuing undergraduate, graduate, or professional studies (seeking a degree or not) as well as individuals enrolled in non-credit courses or programs.

As defined in Pitt’s IP policy, a creator is a University member who creates a copyrightable work of authorship; a developer develops software; and an inventor creates a patentable invention. In this FAQ document, innovator is used to cover all of these terms.

Scholarly work includes scientific or scholarly writings and/or papers; books, theses, and dissertations; poems and other literary works; graphical works (including films, photography, paintings, etc. ); musical works (including compositions, lyrics, performances, mixing, and recordings); architectural works; databases, datasets, collections, or compilations of data; and artistic works and sculptures.

In general, this IP policy only applies to IP covered by licensing agreements with an effective date on or after the policy’s Effective Date.

There are situations, most often occurring with already non-exclusively licensed IP, where new agreements will be treated under the previous policy.

In instances where it is unclear as to which policy governs, the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research will consult with the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for consideration.

If you’ve got an innovation,

The Innovation Institute is the unit of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship that protects and manages IP generated by Pitt innovators. This intellectual property may turn into a patent, a copyright or a trademark. It also provides programs, services, and funding to assess the commercial potential of innovations and accelerate their path to market. Coordinating with partners across the University, as well as external partners, the Innovation Institute helps launch innovations into the world through the licensing of Pitt-developed technologies to existing companies and also through the formation of startup companies created to advance the specific innovation.

The Innovation Institute can help with the disclosure process, ownership questions, patent and copyright filing, and a variety of other steps involved in protecting and distributing your IP. To contact the Innovation Institute, you can email mailto:innovate@pitt.edu. For immediate assistance, you can call (412) 383-7670.

Ownership

The University is committed to protecting academic freedom necessary to preserve and advance the educational mission of the University. Therefore, ownership of intellectual property defaults to the innovator(s) unless certain conditions require the transfer of ownership to the University.

The University will hold ownership of IP when an innovation:

  • results from a sponsored activity paid for by a third party (such as a research grant from a federal agency or foundation); or
  • is directed by a contract, grant, or cooperative agreement with a third party; or
  • is supported by anything more than an incidental use of University resources; or
  • is made at the direction of the University for a specific University purpose.

Incidental use is defined in the University Conflict of Interest Policy for Research (Policy #11-01-03)

and refers to the limited personal use of University equipment or services that the University is already providing and the University Member’s use of such equipment or services will not result in any additional expense to the University, or the use will result in only normal wear and tear, and uses only small amounts of power and expendable supplies, and such use complies with existing contractual obligations.

Federal Funding and IP

The Bayh-Dole Act, also known as the Patent and Trademark Act Amendments of 1980, is a federal law that enables universities, nonprofit research institutions, and small businesses to own, patent, and commercialize inventions developed under federally funded research programs within their organizations. The Bayh-Dole Act created a uniform patent policy among the federal agencies that fund research to enable the movement of valuable technologies from the lab to market.

Key provisions

The University is entitled to retain ownership of any inventions created as a result of federal funding, unless the funding agency informs the University up front that the agency will retain title to inventions derived from the funded projects because of specifically identified “exceptional circumstances” or other specified conditions.

  • When a University innovator discloses the creation of an invention derived from federally funded research, the University has two months from that date to disclose that information to the appropriate federal agency. The University also must patent all inventions it elects to own and commercialize.
  • The University must attempt to develop and commercialize the invention. If an attempt is not made, the federal government retains the right to take control of the invention. The government also may take control of the invention for other reasons, such as a need to alleviate health or safety concerns. This provision is referred to in the law as the government’s “march-in” rights.
  • The University must provide the U.S. government with a nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up, nonexclusive license (“confirmatory license”) to use the invention.
  • In granting a license to use the invention, the University also generally must give priority to small businesses, while maintaining the fair-market value of the invention.
  • When granting an exclusive license, the University must ensure that the invention will be “manufactured substantially” in the United States.
  • Excess revenue must support research and education.
  • The University must share a portion of the royalties with the inventor(s).

University of Pittsburgh works to ensure the objectivity in research and has a specific Conflict of Interest Policy to warrant that. The Conflict of Interest Committee and the Conflict of Interest Division play an important role in assisting the University community with understanding federal regulations and implementing best practices for managing potential conflicts arising from interactions with industry partners and engagement in entrepreneurial activities. Faculty, staff and students can find more information and relevant forms on the webpage of Conflict of Interest Division.

 

Every year The University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute executes over one hundred option and license agreements with companies seeking to commercialize Pitt’s discoveries.

As a result of the breadth of research conducted at the University, the innovations available for licensing range across life sciences, physical sciences, education, computer sciences and more.

Licensing terms for the innovations vary based on a variety of factors, and typically items such as patent expenses, royalties on sales, upfront license fees, annual maintenance fees, equity in new startups, and development milestones. While licensing agreements typically start “standard” terms, we are open to negotiation within the framework of the agreement to create a win-win scenario for both our customers and the University.

If you are interested in starting the licensing process, please contact a Licensing Manager, or email innovate@innovation.pitt.edu. You may also search our technologies available for licensing or contact Jennifer Ireland to discuss your specific interests.

Our standard agreement templates are provided. These sample agreements are meant to provide an example of the agreements and terms that are common when working with the University of Pittsburgh and are subject to change.

We look forward to helping you expand or start your business through licensing University of Pittsburgh innovations.

 

Agreements & Templates

Last updated March 2021

All provisions in the document templates below are subject to addition, elimination, or revision. All communications and discussions are tentative until execution of a written agreement by both parties.

 

Forming a New Company?

Have an Existing Company? 

 

Confidential Disclosure Agreement Templates

A Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA) is used when proprietary information on a university technology is disclosed to another party. This would include any information on the technology that is not yet in the public domain through a patent or publication. It is very important to have one of the following agreements in place before confidential proprietary information is disclosed to anyone outside of the university. The disclosure of this information without a CDA first being in place can jeopardize our ability to pursue patent protection of the technology.

Confidentiality Disclosure Agreements for the purpose of evaluating or discussing licensing or related business partnerships are processed through the Innovation Institute. All forms must be signed by the appropriate university representative in order to be executed. In the case of these CDA’s, the appropriate representative is the Director of the Innovation Institute. Documents that do not go through the appropriate approval process will NOT be considered legally binding and may jeopardize the right to protect intellectual property.  If you are unsure who the proper representative is, please contact the Innovation Institute at 412-648-2206.

 

 

Please bookmark this page and visit it each time you need a form. Do not download and save forms to your computer for future use, as forms are updated regularly. Saving forms may mean that the document you later use is outdated and as a result, may not be accepted.

The Innovation Institute encourages the use of electronic signatures (e.g., DocuSign or scanned original signatures).

 

Create a Startup

If you are considering creating a startup, there are several exercises and analyses to conduct that will help write a business plan that describes how your proposed product or service brings value to potential customers and differentiates from and improves upon existing solutions. Going through these processes will help you create an appealing pitch to potential investors or partners when it comes time to seek funding to get your startup off the ground.

Following is a selection of videos we have curated that will help you explore critical topics for creating a startup. The videos vary in length from a brief introduction of less than two minutes to a medium length of  around 10 minutes, to a deep dive of 15 minutes or more. See a brief introductory message from Peter Allen, the Innovation Institute’s Executive Director of Innovation and Strategy below. Happy watching!

Contact our startup creation experts with any questions you may have along the way or are ready to begin your entrepreneurial journey.

Business Model Canvas (BMC)

The Business Model Canvas has become the go-to tool for startup companies and established businesses when evaluating the potential of bringing a a new product or technology to market.

Business Model Canvas – An Introduction

A two-minute overview of the Business Model Canvas (BMC)

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The BMC – 9 Steps Explained

Each of the 9 segments of the Business Model Canvas are explained including how they relate to one another (~10 minutes)

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Alex Osterwalder Explains Business Model Canvas in Detail

Alex Osterwalder, creator of the Business Model Canvas, discusses in-depth (~42 minutes) and describes an example of how it helped well-known businesses grow.

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Additional Resources

BMC Template

Download your own, editable Business Model Canvas to get started.

Download Template


Business Model Explained with Examples

A 17-minute video that carefully explains each of the 9 segments of the BMC.  The video leads the viewer through how a real business – Google – might fill out the BMC. 

Watch Video


Business Model Canvas – Examples

This article includes examples of the BMC for the auto industry and Amazon.  Also includes a downloadable template.

View Examples


Business Plans

Here the Pitt library introduces you to the various ways to write a business plan and provides you with suggested resources to complete them.

View Website

When it comes time to seek investors or partners for your startup, you will need a compelling pitch deck to present your big idea clearly and concisely.

The Best Pitch Decks – Common Threads

A short video chat with Sequoia Captial (investors in Zoom, DoorDash, 23 and Me, etc.) about what elements must be in your pitch to attract investor interest.

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Why Investors Say NO

5 points of very practical advice for your pitch, regardless of industry (~10 minutes)

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How to do a Great Pitchdeck with Guy Kawasaki

This “no holds barred” presentation provides advice on how to make a successful pitch from renowned startup expert Guy Kawasaki. (~20 minutes)

Watch Video


Additional Resources

Pitch Template

What should your pitch deck consist of and what are the essentials you should discuss?  Download our Pitt-branded template to create your own pitch deck.

Download Template

 

By using the Value Proposition Canvas (VPC) learn how to describe the value a product or service promises to deliver to a customer. Investors will expect an entrepreneur to concisely explain the value proposition before investing.

Value Proposition Explained

Learn the basic outline of the Value Proposition Canvas. (~2 minutes)

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Value Proposition Explained and Example

The elements of the value proposition canvas are further explained by use of the VPC for Uber as an example.

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Alex Osterwalder – Value Proposition Design

Hear the complete story and description of the Value Proposition Canvas by its creator, Alex Osterwalder. His entertaining lecture includes short, optional, exercises for you to consider using. (~ 1 hour)

Watch Video


Additional Resources

Value Proposition Template
A free downloadable template where you can describe your gain creators, pain relievers, and products/services.

Download Template

How do you ensure that your product or service will solve a customer’s problem effectively and cost efficiently? You talk to potential customers to find out.

Customer Discovery – Search for The Holy Grail

An explanation of what customer discovery is and why it is important. (~ 3 minutes)

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Customer Discovery – Testing Product Hypothesis

Steve Blank, father of the “lean startup” concept, discusses the role a company founder plays in customer discovery and why getting out and talking to customers is critical.

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Customer Discovery and Development

This presentation uses examples to explain customer discovery, the risk of introducing biases and introduces the concept of the customer’s journey

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Additional Resources

Talking to Humans 

Free download of this must-read book (~60 minute read) about how to conduct customer discovery and why it is important. It is offered free to students, faculty, etc. after a quick form submission.

Download Book

 

Gain an understanding of how to determine the size of the market your product and/or service addresses and what segment(s) of that market you can effectively reach initially, while expanding your focus to other segments over time.

Total Available Market: How to Build a Startup

This short video explains Total Addressable Market (TAM)

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Market Sizing – TAM, Mistakes to Avoid

A very practical explanation of how to, and how NOT to calculate market size.

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How to Calculate Market Size – TAM, Bottom Up

Learn how to conduct a bottom-up estimate of the Total Addressable Market (TAM) for your product. Includes examples. (~15 minutes)

Watch Video

Learn how to analyze existing offerings in the marketplace and explore how to use this information to differentiate your offerings.

Competitive Analysis and How to Present it

A venture capitalist discusses three ways to present your competitive analysis to an audience.

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How to Conduct Competitive Analysis

Easy to follow video covering how to conduct a competitive analysis (~ 10 minutes)

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Competitive Analysis: 14 Steps

More detail on performing a competitive analysis

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Additional Resources

How to Conduct and Prepare a Competitive Analysis

This helpful article includes a complete “how to” with key questions to address, a list of sources to find information on your competitors (note: the Pitt library has access to most of the sources listed – https://pitt.libguides.com/innovation), and several other useful suggestions and formats to help assemble competitive information 

Go to Website

Most startups need a place to meet with clients and have meetings but the starting costs of a startup make renting out an entire office space an option that is costly and not a priority.  Enter coworking space or accelerators that provide space for your startup.

Coworking spaces are shared workspaces with added perks like wi-fi, private offices, printing/photocopying, access to event space, coffee, networking opportunities, and more.  Check out the ones in Pittsburgh listed below.

Startup accelerators remain one of tech’s most popular ways to get a business up and running and there are plenty to select from for new startups.

With hundreds of programs to choose from — the most popular receive more than 5,000 applications for each class — and the average program taking 6% of equity in any hosted company, not all accelerators are created equal. Check out our lists below for local accelerators in the Pittsburgh area.

Local Accelerators

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AlphaLab provides early-stage technology companies with an extensive mentor network, educational sessions with industry leaders, and a rich entrepreneurial work environment within a nationally ranked accelerator program.

alphalabgear

AlphaLab Gear is consistently ranked as a top-20 accelerator nationwide. They provide early-stage physical product companies with an extensive mentor network, educational sessions with industry leaders, and a rich entrepreneurial work environment.

alphalab health

AlphaLab Health is a healthcare and life sciences accelerator, which supports early-stage tech startups in their efforts to bring innovations to market, navigating key risk points of scientific, clinical, and commercial development. AlphaLab Health is a program of Innovation Works in collaboration with Allegheny Health Network.

Ascender is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization providing mentorship, programming, strategic partnerships, funding and collaborative workspace to early-stage startups across all industries and growth models.

The Blast Furnace is the Pitt student accelerator providing access to a deep mentor network, inspirational co-working space, and a rich curriculum preparing students for creating and growing their business ideas.

LifeX Labs Accelerating Life SciencesLifeX Labs is a life science startup accelerator focused on providing early-stage companies with the support, resources and ecosystem they need to be successful.

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Idea Foundry is an accelerator program intended to help speed up the process of commercialization.

Other Pittsburgh Accelerators

BHiveLab doesn’t provide financing, but they will invest the best and brightest resources in your digital idea. That includes seasoned MBAs and brand strategists to help you with business planning and positioning. They also have the creative thinkers, designers, and developers (front end and back end) to move your idea from concept to commercialization.

Entrepreneurial Fellows Class is hosted by the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence and offers a competitive, yearlong certificate program open to CEOs, founders, and business leaders looking to enhance their knowledge and expertise in managing and growing their business. Requirements are at least $1M in revenue.
Federal Galley and Galley Bakery Square is the first food hall and restaurant accelerator from Galley Group, is the launch pad for the most exciting new restaurant concepts in Pittsburgh.

SteelBridge Labs  is an early-stage FinTech incubator.

Startable Pittsburgh is a free eight-week summer program that teaches students ages 16-18 entrepreneurship and maker skills.
New Sun Rising designs and implements programs that create economic opportunity, solve social challenges, and strengthen the vibrancy of place. As a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, we serve as an educator, resource provider, connector, and activator of neighborhood-scale innovation. Their focus is on under-served communities and how regenerative growth strategies can be utilized for equitable development.
Pantherlab Works is the premier resource for innovative companies in Western Pennsylvania looking to bring new technologies, services and products into the marketplace.
Project Olympus is CMU’s startup incubator program that encourages and supports entrepreneurship on campus.  It helps faculty, students, and staff turn their cutting-edge research and great ideas into startups.

Other Regional Accelerators

ECenter@LindenPointe is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping early-stage startups. They accomplish this by providing office space, mentorship, connections with investors and so much more to ensure you have all of the necessary tools to grow your business and benefit the community.
Youngstown Business Incubator maintains a focus on developing successful digital businesses, advancing women’s & minority entrepreneurship, and furthering advanced manufacturing technologies.

Learn More: 30 Best Startup Accelerators

Dream IT Dose Library

A collection of 5-minute videos produced by DreamIt Ventures provides practical advice from the vantage point of the real-world operations of a venture capital firm.

Learn More


Kaufmann Learning Paths

Video segments (with transcripts) on a wide range of topics of interest to entrepreneurs. Presented in bite size segments, this collection is well produced, easy to understand

Learn More

Technology Licensing

For many Pitt innovators, licensing their discoveries to an existing company is the preferred path to making a societal impact. The professionals at the Innovation Institute can help identify potential licensing and investment partners and negotiate the license.

Contact the Innovation Institute

For industry partners, the Office of Industry and Economic Partnerships can help identify promising opportunities emerging from Pitt labs that align with a company’s business development goals.

Partner with Pitt

The University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute champions the connection between venture capital organizations and family funds.

Please reach out to our Office of Industry and Economic Partnerships for more information regarding Pitt technologies that are of interest to your organization or for more information.  View our complete portfolio of technologies here.

 

A common way for University researchers to get their innovation to market is through the process of licensing to an existing company or industry partner. Licensing to an existing company typically gives the company the right to use the technology or develop, market and sell the technology in the marketplace. There are multiple ways to identify potential licensing opportunities at the Pitt. In some cases, the researcher themselves may have existing industry relationships or be approached by companies as a result of a publication or speaking engagements. The Innovation Institute also helps to market the innovations through personal relationships, business development and online marketing.

The Innovation Institute continually adds to its available technologies and promotes them to industry through an online search platform.

Search Our Technologies

When a potential licensee is identified, the process typically consists of a non-confidential discussion with the Innovation Institute licensing staff or innovator to gauge the interest of the potential licensee. Once the potential licensee confirms a high level of interest, a confidentiality agreement is executed and further, more detailed discussions ensue. Once a potential licensee has made a decision to pursue a licensing agreement, the Innovation Institute licensing team works closely with the researcher and the company to execute a fair agreement.

Regardless of how a potential licensee is identified, it is helpful to understand their expectations.

Potential industry partners typically ask some key questions about your innovation as they decide whether to enter into a licensing agreement with the University. These may include:

  • How much time, effort, and money will it take to get your innovation to market?
  • What are the risks and pitfalls of your innovation?
  • Would your innovation complement the industry partner’s other product offerings or research and development (R&D) programs?
  • How will they convince their superiors and R&D colleagues that your innovation is a great business opportunity?
  • Can they get around your innovation without having to enter into a licensing agreement (i.e., there are ways to make a product that would compete with yours and not infringe your intellectual property)?
  • Will you work with them to help develop your innovation?

Often, companies may provide more development than research in the R&D spectrum and must rely on academic innovators to undertake any additional research necessary for effective commercialization, as well as to troubleshoot when development problems arise. This may take the form of sponsored research or consulting time for you or other members of your team.

Reference the Pitt process from research to license for more information.

Pitt Process from Research to License

Getting your research into the hands that matter: those who can benefit from it most.

ACCESS THE GUIDE

Every year The University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute executes over one hundred option and license agreements with companies seeking to commercialize Pitt’s discoveries.

As a result of the breadth of research conducted at the University, the innovations available for licensing range across life sciences, physical sciences, education, computer sciences and more.

Licensing terms for the innovations vary based on a variety of factors, and typically items such as patent expenses, royalties on sales, upfront license fees, annual maintenance fees, equity in new startups, and development milestones. While licensing agreements typically start “standard” terms, we are open to negotiation within the framework of the agreement to create a win-win scenario for both our customers and the University.

If you are interested in starting the licensing process, please contact a Licensing Manager, or email innovate@innovation.pitt.edu. You may also search our technologies available for licensing or contact Jennifer Ireland to discuss your specific interests.

Our standard agreement templates are provided. These sample agreements are meant to provide an example of the agreements and terms that are common when working with the University of Pittsburgh and are subject to change.

We look forward to helping you expand or start your business through licensing University of Pittsburgh innovations.

 

Agreements & Templates

Last updated March 2021

All provisions in the document templates below are subject to addition, elimination, or revision. All communications and discussions are tentative until execution of a written agreement by both parties.

 

Forming a New Company?

Have an Existing Company? 

 

Confidential Disclosure Agreement Templates

A Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA) is used when proprietary information on a university technology is disclosed to another party. This would include any information on the technology that is not yet in the public domain through a patent or publication. It is very important to have one of the following agreements in place before confidential proprietary information is disclosed to anyone outside of the university. The disclosure of this information without a CDA first being in place can jeopardize our ability to pursue patent protection of the technology.

Confidentiality Disclosure Agreements for the purpose of evaluating or discussing licensing or related business partnerships are processed through the Innovation Institute. All forms must be signed by the appropriate university representative in order to be executed. In the case of these CDA’s, the appropriate representative is the Director of the Innovation Institute. Documents that do not go through the appropriate approval process will NOT be considered legally binding and may jeopardize the right to protect intellectual property.  If you are unsure who the proper representative is, please contact the Innovation Institute at 412-648-2206.

 

 

Please bookmark this page and visit it each time you need a form. Do not download and save forms to your computer for future use, as forms are updated regularly. Saving forms may mean that the document you later use is outdated and as a result, may not be accepted.

The Innovation Institute encourages the use of electronic signatures (e.g., DocuSign or scanned original signatures).

Forms

All forms must be signed by a university representative in order to be executed.  Please do not sign agreements yourself.  These documents will NOT be considered legally binding if you do so, and you run the risk of losing rights to your intellectual property.  If you are unsure who the proper representative is, please contact the Innovation Institute at 412-648-2206 .

Invention Disclosures (ID)

You should submit an invention disclosure as early as possible once you’ve established that you have an innovation with commercial potential. Here are instructions on the invention disclosure online submission process. Click here to submit your invention disclosure.

Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA)

Used when proprietary information on a university technology is disclosed to another party. This would include any information on the technology that is not yet in the public domain through a patent or publication. It is very important to have one of the following agreements in place before confidential proprietary information is disclosed to anyone outside of the university. The disclosure of this information without a CDA first being in place can destroy the value of that technology.

  • One-way Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA): It is generally used when a party wishes to receive further information to help evaluate a particular technology that they may be interested in.
  • Mutual Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA): It is used when proprietary information is exchanged both ways between two parties. This agreement protects both sides when confidential information is being discussed.
  • Three-way Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA): It is used when proprietary information is exchanged both ways between three parties. This agreement protects all sides when confidential information is being discussed.

Intellectual Property Assignment

When the University of Pittsburgh or any other university or research institution accepts a federal research grant or contract, the University becomes a federal contractor and is required to comply with the Bayh-Dole regulations as a condition of accepting the funding for research activities. The Bayh-Dole regulations are updated from time to time, and the most recent revisions were published in April of 2018, with an effective date of May 14, 2018.

Although several changes to the regulations impact the University’s obligations as a contractor/recipient of federal research funding, one change in particular relates to a new requirement for the University to have IP assignment agreements with its employees conducting research under the federal grant or contract:

IP Assignment Forms and FAQ

Licensing and Agreement Templates

Once an industry partner or startup company is willing to license an innovation from the University of Pittsburgh, a licensing agreement is negotiated which gives the interested party the right to make, use and/or sell the innovation in the marketplace. Sample licensing and agreement templates help can be found here: Licensing and Agreement Templates

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