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February 9, 2015

From Academia to the Market Place

So you are a scientist in academia and wondering…how can I become the next Dow, BASF or Monsanto? Well it is simple…invent something great and get that bad boy to market so folks can buy it! Article over…right!?!? I mean you have the brainpower and let’s not forget those scientific super powers that make you god! Ok, ok, ok…I might be exaggerating a bit here but you get my drift. As a scientist in academia, you are charged with cutting edge inventions that lead to the betterment of society. You want to discover the cure for cancer or the next insulin regulator. You want your work to heal for generation to come and have your name go down in folklore as the greatest in your field. You publish your work, gain countless patents as well as attend symposiums where others who share your sense of accomplishment adore you. Sounds about right Mr. Scientist?

While I agree to some extent given my own professional background of being a bench chemist, I knew there had to be something more than just scientific glory. Well guess what there is…commercialization and technology transfer. I know your thinking ok “business guy” this sounds good but why hasn’t it been successful so far. Well glad you asked! Here’s why:

A) Communication barriers between the scientific and business worlds. Think of this as two people saying the same thing but one is speaking French and the other Spanish. Without a common language neither party can fully understand nor negotiate effectively.

B) Lack of motivation to commercialize technology due to unclear goal and incentive structures. So how does the money get split? Why do you get more and I less if I am the inventor? How is society really bettered by commercial greed? These are the common questions that arise when you get misalignment of goals and incentives. In fact, inventions get bogged down in this stage an no one ever sees the true benefit and blessing of what could be the greatest thing since sliced bread.

C) Absence of structure or lack of clear understanding concerning the technology transfer and commercialization process. When the process is unclear and milestones and timelines are not defined clearly one could get very frustrated with the process for technology transfer and commercialization. Both sides need to realize that the process is on going and all the planning in the world does not account for humanity and nature.

D) Limited to no funding sources to operationalize the innovation and take it to the marketplace. Aaahhhh yes…show me the MONEY! So, how can we get this done without money and where are the sources to do so? This is really the core question that arises after understanding the value of what you have invented. But the key is to always make sure you KNOW the value before seeking the funds.

Ok “Mr. Business man” you have given me some insights but what can I do right now? Begin by opening your mind to the idea that all business is not corrupt and profit seeking. There is a new wave of businessmen and women who want to help society as well as live a comfortable life. They call themselves Social Entrepreneurs. By at least entertaining that possibility you open the door to what could be the next great invention of our times and getting it into the hands of those who need it most.

Follow Renard Green on Twitter@NardGreezy

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