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Bootstrapping a Proof of Concept Fund to Commercialize Early-Stage University IP

Format: On-Demand Video, DVD, or PDF Transcript
Originally presented: May 05, 2016

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bootstrapIt’s an article of faith these days that to gain the interest and commitment of licensees and investors, your early-stage technologies must be “de-risked.” Therein often lies a catch-22 for university TTOs and researchers: It takes money to move to beyond discovery to achieve de-risking milestones, but research grants don’t generally extend into this phase of development.

It takes dedicated “gap” or proof-of-concept funding to get it done, and that is typically the toughest money to obtain. As a result, too many promising technologies sit dormant and die on the vine – victims of the infamous Valley of Death.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign confronted this challenge by taking matters into their own hands, creating the I-POC proof-of-concept fund. Faced with a decreased budget and no endowment to rely on, the OTM approached the vice chancellor of research and various colleges to invest in the fund, and bootstrapped it into reality.

Each chosen project is assigned a hand-selected review panel to ensure milestones are met. Because of the meticulous process used, over the course of six years nine solid start-ups have been born, raising over $1 million in initial funding and over $14 million in follow-on funding.  

We invite you to join UIUC leaders Lesley Millar-Nicholson and Nicole Nair for this eye-opening distance learning program:

Bootstrapping a Proof of Concept Fund to Commercialize Early-Stage University IP

Join Lesley and Nicole for this instructive, how-to program when they’ll share their experience, process, and lessons learned in creating and managing the I-POC fund. Here’s a look at the program agenda:

  • Overview of the Illinois Proof of Concept Program (I-POC) including:
    • Funding raised and awarded to date
    • Participating units
    • Range of dollars & projects
    • Additional resources for awardees
  • Ensuring future sustainability of projects and fund
  • Criteria when recruiting the review panel
  • Process and criteria for choosing projects
  • Looking back on the program so far
    • Successes
    • Disappointments
    • Lessons Learned

Your Program Leaders:

Lesley Millar-NicholsonLesley Millar-Nicholson

Lesley has served as the Director of the Office of Technology Management (OTM) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 2006; she originally joined the Office in 2002 as an Engineering Technology Manager. As Director, Ms. Millar-Nicholson leads a team of more than 20 professionals responsible for engaging with faculty, staff, corporations, and venture groups to commercialize the intellectual property arising from the more than $600 million in research conducted on campus. She also works with a wide range of campus, corporate, and community partners, furthering the office’s mission to encourage innovation, enhance research and facilitate economic development. Prior to joining the OTM, she had an extensive career in local government in England where she worked in consulting, contract and small business management, strategic planning, and policy development.

Ms. Millar-Nicholson is a frequent speaker at technology transfer seminars and professional meetings. She is President-Elect of the Board of Governors of Certified Licensing Professionals Inc. and a member of the Board of Managers of Illinois Ventures LLC.  She provides ongoing advice and guidance to Enterprise Ireland on technology transfer issues for Irish Universities. She is a member of both the Licensing Executive Society and the Association of University Technology Managers. A native of Scotland, Ms. Millar-Nicholson has a B.Ed. an M.Ed and an MBA. She is also a Certified Licensing Professional (CLP).

Nicole NairNicole Nair

Nicole Nair is the Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications of the Office of Technology Management (OTM) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She develops strategies to promote the University’s portfolio of technologies and OTM services to external and internal audiences. This includes identifying new marketing opportunities, producing materials, managing publicity efforts, overseeing the Office’s website, planning events, and managing social media channels. Her responsibilities include managing the Illinois Proof of Concept program and overseeing a team of student interns.

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