Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Research Bridge Partners looks to level the playing field for mid-continent universities


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: December 4th, 2019

Did you know that over the past five years, 75% of federal research funding has gone to institutions outside of California, Massachusetts and New York, while nearly 80% of venture investment went to companies located in those three states? Research Bridge Partners (RBP), a not-for-profit that seeks to bolster start-up funding and support for mid-continent universities, is working hard to change that.

 “While we don’t purport to have solved the problem, we’re working to help mid-continent universities create an ecosystem that cultivates success for spinouts,” says Jim Graham, director of investments at RBP.

The non-profit firm is trying to level the playing field for schools in the heartland, which it believes are at a distinct disadvantage compared with their counterparts in highly developed ecosystems that can rely on their existing networks, talent, and deal flow to reduce the costs of “pre-deal” work, which can be priced into future financing rounds.

Graham says RBP is much more than an investor. It does provide funding, but also connects mid-continent university TTOs with CEO talent, networks of service providers, partners, and customers that are too often lacking outside of a handful of coastal commercialization clusters.

“It’s not just about the money. Capital is mobile. Start-up commercialization requires a network of talented consultants, friends, and advisors,” Graham says. RBP helps connect academic co-founders in the middle of the country to these ecosystems, so they can create a sustainable model of their own — one that introduces the best scientific innovators to the best entrepreneurs.

The company has a three-pronged approach in how it achieves making these connections:

  1. It uses advanced analytics to identify the heartland university researchers with the most impactful innovation, who are most likely to co-found successful companies. It identifies the one to two percent of researchers who, if they were at places like Berkeley, Stanford or MIT, would have venture capitalists lining up at their office doors. To identify exceptional researchers across a distributed geography, these proprietary algorithms and statistical models examine publicly available information compiled on more than 15,000 principal investigators nationwide.
  2. It works with those researchers and universities to create start-ups based on their innovations that can compete in the national markets for capital and talent. RBP has developed a novel not-for-profit venture capital vehicle to finance the formation process.
  3. It collaborates with investors and executives throughout the country, and especially in coastal start-up clusters, to connect these labs and opportunities to national-caliber business talent and capital.

“The seed fund will further our goal of bridging leading edge research labs in the mid-continent to the mature networks of capital, talent, and services based in coastal venture clusters,” explains Isaac Barchas, co-founder and CEO of RBP. “This complements our ongoing efforts to support and enable academic innovators in the middle of the country by funding foundational corporate activities to activate the downstream venture cycle.”

A detailed article on RBP’s efforts to support mid-continent university innovations appears in the November issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. For subscription information, CLICK HERE.

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