Innovation starts with an idea, but it ultimately succeeds by harnessing insights and connections in its route to realization. Leading technology transfer offices often form external advisory boards to support this evolution. While external advisory boards are a commonplace at larger universities and those in well-stocked innovation communities, it can be difficult to attract top technical, business, and investment advice to smaller universities or more regionally-removed locations.
For those that find themselves in this situation, there is no better time to leverage a crowdsourcing approach to form your advisory board. After all, advisory boards assist the technology transfer operation in the following ways:
- Manage Budget: Optimize limited resources (investments, patent costs, time, etc.) by evaluating the technical and commercial merit behind the invention
- Ideate Routes to Commercialization: Recognize new routes to commercialization through the group’s knowledge of multiple industries
- Expand Network: Expand investment and commercial connections by harnessing the board’s extended connections
Crowdsourcing is an approach that taps into the best technical or business advice regardless of physical location or current connections. The idea is to create a well orchestrated network of individuals that can be unique leveraged for their experience when presented with a challenge or invention in their area of expertise. It is less formal than a more traditional advisory board approach, but provides more flexibility to those that may not have existing networks built into their university alumni or community.
We suggest two basic approaches to begin your crowdsourced external advisory board:
Organic Community: Through social networks, like LinkedIn, your office can establish a group and begin posting needs and other ways to connect with your office. The upside to this approach is that it requires low upstart costs and can be managed internally. The challenge will be to manage the conversation within the group (e.g. eliminate chatter and self-promotion), to establish information safe-guards , and to orchestrate a more formal process to communicate with advisors behind the scenes
Outsourced Expertise: This approach runs through an outside firm with a deep bench of experts that can step in when needed. For instance, the Vortech’s Group has acted in this role to evaluate portfolios at our client institutions. This approach is more ad hoc and costs some money, but it requires less internal management, works through a defined evaluation process, and allows units to quickly move beyond their first-tier networks
As you look over your existing advisory board or plan to lay the foundation for the future, please consider these approaches to crowdsourcing the best technical, business, and investment advice for your inventions.