Tech Transfer University Reporter

Best Practices for Fostering University Hyper-Local Innovation Ecosystems

By Debi Melillo
Published: March 31st, 2014

A University Hyper-Local Innovation Ecosystem (Hy-LIE) is defined as a cluster of R&D-oriented entities readily accessible to the campus – including small & large corporations, technology veterans, entrepreneurs and early stage investors as well as related supply chains and service providers.

This notion was born several years ago at UC Berkeley when Mike Cohen, Director of Innovation Ecosystem Development in the Office of Technology Licensing, asked how university innovations get commercialized.  From that came a unique framework that led to several tangible initiatives. He then took his idea one step further and co-founded Berkeley’s SkyDeck, which is an information technology accelerator. 

During his webinar on the subject, Mike shared his top 10 best practices to foster a Hy-LIE in your university’s region, and we are pleased to share them here with you. He also identified the four pathways of innovation as well as systematic activities that have an asymptotic impact on commercialization and how organic activities can have an exponential impact while staying cost-effective. Read below for the top 10 best practices and CLICK HERE to order this valuable webinar on DVD, On-Demand Video or PDF Transcript.

10 Best Practices to Foster University Hy-LIEs:

  1. Students & Faculty
    Provide entrepreneur-oriented MBA and technology management programs as part of your curriculum that feed the local innovation culture.
  2. YAPS: Yet Another Poster Session
    Get students, mentors, faculty, and local business to meet through poster sessions. That’s a good mechanism to get MBA and applied engineering science students, grad students, and faculty to mingle and get to know each other. 
  3. Competitions: start-ups, business plans, tech innovations, big ideas
    Business competitions have evolved into start-up competitions, especially with the notion of lean start-up, and are a great way to keep entrepreneurialism in the forefront.
  4. Project Courses:
    Research-to-market, project-based classes with interdisciplinary teams are key. A great example of this is UC Berkeley’s Cleantech-to-Market course. It brings interdisciplinary teams of students to focus on the commercialization of a research effort.  One caveat: the purpose of these teams is not to create a business plan: it’s more to learn about a research team’s area, and provide them with feedback on the direction of the research.
  5. University start-up accelerators
    Have a place where entrepreneurs, teams, mentors, etc. can meet, dish on ideas, create companies and utilize the resources that accelerators are known for.
  6. Mentoring
    Having mentoring office hours with VCs and serial entrepreneurs is critical to keeping the university/local community relationships intact.
  7. Start-up service packages
    Leverage your business resources: accountants, attorneys and marketers in your local area that can help companies form, incorporate, and apply for SBIRs and STTRs.
  8. IP Management with an “impact-oriented approach to IP” (not just money)
    It’s good to have a tech transfer office that has more of an impact orientation on managing their intellectual property.  So it’s not just about making money; it’s really about how to manage intellectual property to maximize its commercialization.  And sometimes — for example, in the software area — that can mean open sourcing and putting it into the public domain.  It doesn’t always mean licensing the technology exclusively to make the absolute most money in the short term, which can sometimes impede a start-up’s progress and the success of commercialization. 
  9. Partnering between university, local businesses & government
    We are talking between universities, local businesses, and government. If you go to or .com, you’ll see how the university came together with local businesses and the local government to establish this start-up cluster in downtown Berkeley, adjacent to the UC Berkeley campus. 
  10. Office parks for mature corporations to leverage university & anchor start-ups
    As start-ups mature, they incrementally grow into bigger space.  And office parks also have opportunities for anchored tenants, large companies that can help, again, with the critical mass of your Hy-LIE. 

One thing to remember is that Hy-LIEs are all about a “start here, stay here” mentality. Maintaining a heavy focus on a certain type of technology, whether it’s a biotechnology, information technology, or a subset therein that your university excels in will give you a competitive advantage that encourages local innovation and business growth.

More in-depth advice is provided in the archived webinar, “University Hyper-Local Innovation Ecosystems: How to Grow and Leverage Their Strategic Potential”, which is available on DVD, On-Demand Video and PDF Transcript. To order or for more information, CLICK HERE. Technology Transfer Tactics would like to thank Mike Cohen, Director of Innovation Ecosystem Development in the Office of Technology Licensing at the University of California-Berkeley, for his valuable insight and leadership in the distance learning program. 

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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.

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