Guest post: Academic or Practical Discoveries to Industry Products

May 10, 2012 | Posted by Guest in Outsourcing Trends |

This is a guest post by Bill Barnett, Director of Science Community Tools (Research Technologies) at Indiana University (see full bio below).

We are all aware of the challenges of taking inventions developed in academia or practical settings and moving them to products and services that benefit people.  In the world of medical inventions, we’re talking about improving human health.  It is not that both inventors and industry don’t do their job marvelously.  The job of inventors who are academics or clinicians is to make discoveries and help patients, and some of these efforts result in discoveries that could become products and services.  That is exciting and valuable but taking the next step is something researchers or clinicians usually don’t know how to do and, in some cases, have been doing wrong.  This is important – there is a lot of great research going on and a lot of great discoveries are being made. If we can move them quickly to products we can have a real impact on health!  Commercializing discoveries is difficult.  But a new service, i2iconnect.org, can help bridge the gap between inventors and the industry resources needed to bring inventions to patients.

Since passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, which allows universities to profit from publicly-funded research, many universities have established technology transfer offices whose responsibility is to move these discoveries into products and services.  There are two typical paths for this: Create a startup or license the discovery to a company.  There has been a lot of attention to startups, and they are a feature of many state or local entrepreneurial strategies.  Due to the number and cost of mandatory business prerequisites, starting a new venture can be a tough row to hoe.  Academics or clinicians are asked to develop a prototype product, a business model, raise funds, and build a business – a tough transition for someone from another world who is learning as they go.   Many medical entrepreneurs have been successful and sometimes a new corporation is the right answer, but the failure rate is high – which means the potential health benefits are not reaching the public.  And with the diminished economy, finding funding for these ventures has become more difficult.

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