Crowdfunding is still in its infancy — particularly for university technologies — but the University of Rochester (NY) has already successfully funded the very early commercialization phase of two technologies with the help of Innovocracy, a company started for just that purpose.
Innovocracy’s execs, former venture capitalists who’d previously worked with the university on more traditional tech transfer projects, wanted to “marry technology commercialization with social media,” according to one of the founders, and UR came on board right away. The result: One device that benefits children with autism and another that helps people who’ve lost the use of a limb will soon come to market.
“We were kicking back and forth ideas with a few folks at the university about how we could replicate our prior successes more frequently,” comments Mike Totterman, chairman at Innovocracy. “One thing we focused on was both of the companies we helped launch — VirtualScopics and iCardiac Technologies – got early prototype funding, not the traditional NIH or other institute funding, that allowed the generation of a second or third prototype. We identified that as a critical need and worked with the university to pinpoint other technologies available to us to do that.” UR approved the idea through its internal mechanisms within a couple months, he adds, lauding the school for its “strong technology commercialization program” and for being “progressive in trying new things.”
Indeed, he adds, UR has been “a very active partner in our joint efforts and we have covered a significant amount of ground together.” The first step was to create the operational framework for a crowdfunding approach, which identified the key point persons at the university for implementation support. Next, the pair set up processes with finance and sponsored research to handle the fund flows, grant documentation and close-out reporting, then connected with PR departments for internal and external communications and rollout. In addition, the Innovocracy/UR collaborators “defined an initial plan for identifying early projects as well as ideas for identifying an ongoing stream of projects,” Totterman says.
But the most important of the steps, he emphasizes, was the identification of a key point person who has enough connectivity within the university to quickly address any policy issues that may arise. “We have been very fortunate to work with Gail Norris, vice provost of technology transfer policy at the university,” he says, “which has allowed us to
move quickly while staying within the UR framework.” A detailed article on the U Rochester crowdfunding efforts appears in the January issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To access the full article and begin a subscription, plus gain complete access to our six-year archive of tech transfer success strategies and case studies, CLICK HERE.