Strategies for Developing University Innovation Ecosystems

Quadrant B – High Talent | High Centralization

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Quadrant B – High Talent | High Centralization: UIEs in this position should encourage their business, engineering, and applied science academic units (not TTO) to create ecosystem programs that focus on different sectors of technologies, markets and business models. For example, undergrads, GSRs and post-docs should be encouraged to establish: (1) various UIE-related student groups (i.e. EE, CS, bioE, etc), (2) various themed poster sessions that mingle MBA students with applied science and engineering students, as well as (3) various idea, technology and startup competitions. Likewise, departments should be encouraged to establish various lab-to-market courses (as exemplified by UCB’s Cleantech to Market course), alumni mentor networks, idea incubators, startup accelerators, and maker spaces.
Innovation-Importing and the Supply-Demand of Readily Commercializable Technologies: Large universities in high-talent A and B quadrants typically have many students, independent entrepreneurs, early stage investors, and leading-edge companies searching the campus for technologies to commercialize. However, only a small percentage of university research leads to readily commercializable technologies (RCTs) because for most innovations: (1) the technology is unproven, and/or (2) the markets are too nascent for viable business models. Consequently, the demand for RCTs in a robust UIE outstrips the supply of RCTs from the university (especially for RCTs that solve important societal problems as opposed to just getting people to click more ads and buy more stuff). This situation dispels the myth that many universities have RCTs “sitting on the shelf” (sometimes attributed to risk-averse venture capital and/or onerous TTO licensing).
Universities in quadrant A and B with this RCT supply-demand imbalance should consider the following: (1) putting more resources into applied and proof-concept research as well as lab-to-market courses (that help lab teams orient their research toward RCTs); and (2) reaching-out to research institutions that aren’t integrated with universities – for example in the San Francisco Bay Area: The Buck Institute, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and SRI International.

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