Aligning University Licensing and Intellectual Property Operations With Industrial Innovation Models

The goal to eliminate the university-industry innovation gap is something that we all strive towards as members of the technology transfer community as we position our intellectual property for licensing to companies. One of the major tensions in this pursuit is how we position our under-defined intellectual property with market players that may expect or need a more complete technology. The outcome is often confusion, skewed expectations, and bad timing that can be partially avoided if we take the time to really understand our industrial partners’ unique innovation systems. In this post, we will identify the three most-used process models that industry uses to develop new products and services and in future posts talk about how to align your university technology transfer operation and it’s intellectual property and licensing approach to actively participate.

A corporate culture of innovation requires ideation, leadership, risk management, empowered employees, and a process. This innovation process will be unique to each company, but will ultimately draw from the following three models:

  • Linear: A linear innovation model, best represented by Robert Cooper’s StageGate, can be viewed as an funnel or movement of raw ideas to a finished product through a process of refinement. This particular process works really well in companies with developmentally-rigorous technology focus areas or in situation that requires extensive manufacturing. The idea is to de-risk as much as possible early, when costs are cheap
  • Iterative: The iterative innovation model, represented by Eric Reis’s Lean Start-up, can by viewed as a constant improvement cycle that incorporates feedback and melds the finished product. This process is best suited for technologies that can be quickly adapted, like software, and have both an offering and a platform to work with customers. The idea is to constantly serve a “minimally viable product” to potential users and use their feedback and internal skills to iterate towards the final product
  • Challenge-based: Smart companies have figured out that to compete they must root out the best ideas and talent, wherever that may be. They put together internal idea challenges or produce open innovation platforms of work with external scouts to display alternatives and opportunities for the future.

University technology transfer operations can use these models to create specific processes for licensing engagement with each of their target companies. In future posts, we will discuss each of these models in detail with recommendations for initiatives to improve your tech transfer, intellectual property, and industrial relations operations.

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2 thoughts on “Aligning University Licensing and Intellectual Property Operations With Industrial Innovation Models”

  1. If we begin the discussion with the goal in mind, and then think about the steps-stages that will get us there we may find something different from what we typically expect-assume. The driver of many academics is ‘publishing’, the motivation of most corporations is profit-growth etc. The underlying motivations for both are similar in that both have the standard human drives: self actualization-ego, security-power-financial gain, recognition.
    I don’t have the numbers, but have the impression that much of university research is funded by the federal government, directly or indirectly. Indeed IF that is the case, the findings are ‘owned’ by the government. The idea that the professors who do the research ‘own’ it is flawed. Certainly the inventors ‘may’ have a ‘share’ in the innovation, but not anywhere near 100%. Once one accepts this [IF] the idea of licensing model changes.
    Also, I find it very odd that much of the research by national labs and universities is available to the world, free. While we are in a position to ‘share’, we never can be so presumptive as to ‘give’ all.

  2. Azmat,
    Thank you for your thoughtful post on the importance of assessing the relationship between universities and industry from all angles. Too often, we get caught in an “us” vs “them” mentality vs looking objectively at what we need to do to make the system work. This is especially important in a practice as intense as intellectual property and licensing

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