Win-out at spin-outs

academic professor research.jpgIt’s not uncommon for the brains behind the newest and brightest technological ideas to be university academics. But they don’t always have the business experience or know-how to get investors on board and see how a product could work in the wider market.This opens an opportunity for entrepreneurs looking for a new technology to exploit commercially. They can jump in and offer their business acumen in exchange for holding the license to the product or building a company around it which they then have a share in.The academics, on the other hand, may well know that they have a great new piece of technology on their hands, but need to find that person who can turn their idea into an economic success and handle the business and financial nitty-gritty that they’re too busy inventing to worry about.There’s an interesting article in today’s FT exploring this - how to turn new academic research and developments in technology into commercially viable businesses. The process is known as creating a spin-out.If spin-outs are the type of entrepreneurial opportunity that you might consider, it could be worth reading the advice the FT gives in the article – handily summarised especially for you by your dear Smarta blogger:Employ a successful technology transfer boss, with experience of running university spin-outs, who knows the ins and outs of the academic world. Be patient – expect numerous revisions of the business plan and manage expectations. Be prepared for a long gestation. As with any entrepreneurial business, keep in touch with investors you know and always be on the look-out for new ones. Be willing and ready to partner with a larger technology transfer office at another uni or VC group – particularly if your university lacks resources.There are also some things you shouldn’t be doing. Don’t create spin-outs simply to meet targets or create PR – failure is worse than no product. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the point of this is to transfer technology to society in the safest way possible – that may often mean licensing technology to an established company rather than using the spin-out model. And don’t spin-out a company if the researchers aren’t on board. You need them on board, if only because much of the intellectual property is in their heads, even when you hold the license. Make sure they know how much work is involved in spinning out a company. And realise that investors aren’t always going to put in money quickly – don’t be impatient.

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