Tech Transfer University Reporter

Pre-launch Considerations for University Innovations

By Debi Melillo
Published: March 3rd, 2014

Arguably, one of the most challenging issues for technology transfer professionals is choosing which technologies to move through the pipeline and whether to license out or create a start up around the innovation. In fact, each decision your team makes can run the risk of degrading relationships with researchers (when you tell them “the baby is ugly,” or alternatively wasting tens of thousands of scarce dollars on technologies that just aren’t commercially viable. So how do you make these tough decisions and make sure you back more winners and fewer losers?

You can start by adopting the proven best practices covered in our recent distance learning program Focus Your TTO Staff and Budget on the Winners: Pre-launch Considerations for University Innovations. The specific strategies covered by our expert panel will bring higher success rates, more effective use of staff time and patent budgets, and better relationships with faculty inventors.

In this week’s feature post, we’re going to focus in on some of the key pre-launch questions you must ask yourself regarding the market — rather than the science behind the technology:

  1. Does your technology/science/product address a critical unmet need and market opportunity? If so, how large is the opportunity? What is the model? Who are the customers and are they obtainable?  Can you articulate what the need is and why it exists?  What does your technology offer in terms of the solution that does not already exist in the market? Is there competition?  The alternative solutions, if they exist, have got to be examined as if they were the technologies that you were trying to bring forth to the market; not dismissively, not redundantly. And finally, if not for your technology, what would the customer actually do? 
  2. Can you describe the customers and quantify the sales of the nearest competitors or comparable companies? Are those sales significant? Are they enough to justify the investment? Are they sufficient to justify the launch of a new product? Who writes about or covers the specific areas that you’re talking about? Almost every successful technology will have some public company embodiment. It’s worth finding out from brokerage houses and investment bankers who writes about it, and talking to them. These individuals, these analysts, live with the products and the competition and are an invaluable resource. And what do these same analysts have to say about your product or solution?  
  3. Is the technology market-ready and promotable? What methods should be employed to promote the product?  On what basis do clients know to buy this product?  How do you know that’s the basis on which they buy the product?  What are the most important reasons they buy? If not your product, whose would the buy?  What will your clients tell you about the product, and how will you tell your clients about the product?  What will make them buy?  How will you keep others from displacing you or competing with you?  The barrier to displacement, or the barrier to competition, is a critical element of the decision to go forward in commercialization.
  4. Do you have proof of concept? How do you know your product or service is going to work?  What makes it a proof of concept?  Do you need to build prototypes?  Who will make them?  How will you test them?  And after the tests succeed, are there standards of proof which once reached will be taken as objective — as evidence of risk reduction? 

Most likely, these elements of market analysis, of opportunity, of competitiveness are addressed in a limited fashion by the academic inventor, and that’s where the TTO’s expertise comes in to play. While this is a very small sample of the considerations you need to home in on before launching a start-up around a technology, the highly rated 90-minute distance learning program includes much more detailed information and guidance. You can purchase the full program, complete with all handoutmaterials, on DVD, On-Demand Video or as a PDF Transcript by CLICKING HERE.

Technology Transfer Tactics would like to thank the following individuals for their valuable insight and informative presentation.

  • Margaret Offerman, MD, PhD – Principal at The Salutramed Group
  • T. (Teo) Forcht Dagi, M.D. – Partner, HLM Venture Partners
  • Jack D. Capers, Jr. Partner, King and Spalding
  • Russell M. Medford, MD, PhD – Co-founder, President and CEO, Salutria Pharmaceuticals, LLC

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Technology Transfer Tactics’ Distance Learning Division wants you!
If you have a case study, topic of expertise and are interested in presenting a webinar, please send the topic and your bio to Debi Melillo for consideration.

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Upcoming webinars:

Visit for more unique, practical, and advanced strategies, case studies, best practices, and expert guidance on a broad range of challenges and opportunities for technology transfer offices and professionals.

Posted under: Tech Transfer University Reporter

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