Basic Considerations for Commercialization
The University of Pittsburgh believes that future economic success in the United States depends in no small part on the commercial development of university-developed technologies that emerge from research funded by federal grants. The federal government invests substantial resources in basic research conducted by research institutions like the University of Pittsburgh. The federal government supported that goal with the enactment of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which requires universities to protect the intellectual property underlying new discoveries emanating from federally-sponsored research.
The most common and effective ways to see your research commercialized and achieve societal benefit are through a traditional license (this is typically an existing company licensing the right to develop, market and sell innovations that have originated within the University) or through the creation of a new company, commonly referred to as startup formation. In the latter scenario, the pursuit of creating a startup may be led by the researchers (faculty or graduate students), or the technology may be licensed by an entrepreneur. In either case, the lead researchers are highly involved in this decision making and play a key role in the commercialization strategy.
Check out this infographic to better understand the paths to market.
Obtaining Some Guidance – You don’t have to take this journey alone! You may start by filing an Invention Disclosure. This will connect you with a Licensing Manager who will help you begin your commercialization journey. This may include seeking patent or copyright protection for your innovation.
You might consider participating in one of the Innovation Institute’s commercialization programs to help educate you on the commercialization process, and provide mentorship and funding to accelerate your progress from the lab or classroom to the market.
Regardless of the path ultimately chosen there are numerous factors to explore as you begin your commercialization journey:
- Customer Discovery
This is the process of evaluating the companies and individuals that will find value from the innovation. Customer groups are segmented by understanding how their needs differ, what distribution channels are employed to reach them, their profitability, etc.
- Value Proposition
Once the Customer Segments are identified, it must be determined what benefits a product or service based on your technology might bring to each. For example, a battery technology may benefit the customer by faster charging or holding more energy for the same size and weight. A succinct value proposition statement is crucial to enable people, such as investors, to quickly understand the commercial benefits of a technology.
You will use the value proposition to position the business opportunity for your innovation—whether online, in scientific journals, at conferences and technology showcases, at industry partnering meetings, or through other interactive venues. Participating in the Innovation Institute’s commercialization programs will help you to develop your value proposition as well as cultivate marketing opportunities.
Customer segments and value proposition are two of the nine elements of the Business Model Canvas (BMC) . The process for developing a BMC for your technology is presented in the book, “Business Model Generation” by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur. The authors write, “We believe a business model can best be described through nine basic building blocks that show the logic of how a company intends to make money. The nine blocks cover the four main areas of a business: customers, offer, infrastructure, and financial viability. The business model is like a blueprint for a strategy to be implemented through organizational structures, processes, and systems.” While the authors focus on money, this same approach is capable of incorporating other impacts on society as well.
- Product-Market Fit
You may have an innovation or product, but you need to learn whether a market exists for it. You need to determine if there are a significant number of people or organizations that have a problem your innovation solves and do they perceive that your product is superior to the alternatives