Commercializing the Output of Canadian Universities

By: Darcy Bachert

The pressure to commercialize innovation in Canada is fierce, competition for money is often tight and the path to success requires a completely different skillset then universities and academics are generally equipped with.

The process of taking a technology from the lab to the market requires the mind of an experienced entrepreneur.  At minimum, one must understand the technology, possess strong business sense, understand the market environment, and have the ability to deal with investor sets from angels to VCs to public shareholders. This list doesn’t even touch on the talents required to build, manage and lead a team of engineers, scientist and salespeople – all with a compelling vision of the future.

In 2003 (the latest year for which figures are available), Canadian universities and their affiliated research hospitals earned $55.5 million in income from intellectual property, held $52.4 million worth of equity in publicly traded spin-off companies, generated 1,133 invention disclosures, were issued 347 patents, and were in receipt of 3,047 national and international patents.

One great example is Quantum Dental Technologies and their commercialization of The Canary System. This technology was based on research completed by Dr. Andreas Mandelis, a professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department at the University of Toronto, involving Frequency Domain Photothermal Radiometry and Modulated Luminescence (FD-PTR and LUM).  By bringing in business experience, by way of Josh Silvertown, an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business and the technology commercialization experience of Prolucid, this company has been able to take their revolutionary cavity detection technology out of the research lab to turn it into a viable commercial product.  All of this is thanks in great part to Canada’s active technology transfer environment, and the various players that work within it.

In addition to the Altitude Accelerator, below is a brief introduction to a few of the many organizations devoted to delivering university technology along the path to commercialization:

The Ontario Society for Excellence in Technology Transfer (OnSETT) The 32 cross-Ontario offices of this non-profit professional association play a critical role in identifying opportunities and managing the process of commercially realizing scientific discoveries. They also act to facilitate research collaborations and interactions with industry, and to provide industry with access to the expertise, technology and specialized resources on offer from the province’s academic research institutions.

Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) Positioned at the intersection between university researchers and the external environment (including, significantly, industry and government), TTOs are charged with mobilizing knowledge and nurturing research relationships between researchers and industry, and supporting the commercialization agenda of the university by monetizing its innovations and technological assets. Under the auspices of Communications Research Centre Canada, the TTOs offer such facilitating tools as R&D centres and testbeds, R&D collaboration, innovative technologies and prototype development, and specialized engineering-consulting services.

The Ontario Research Commercialization Program (ORCP) This government initiative helps Ontario’s researchers and entrepreneurs to commercialize their innovations by partnering universities and companies, and by overseeing an internship program that’ll give the next generation of Ontario thinkers the practical business skills they need to help transform future discoveries into products and services. Inside this program, the province has pledged $31.4 million to public research institutions and not-for-profit organizations to help identify promising research — including that related to medical discoveries and devices — and nudge it along the continuum of commercialized products and services.

MaRS Innovation This downtown Toronto innovation hub works to commercialize the most promising breakthroughs from 17 of Toronto’s top universities and research institutes. It does so by connecting scientists and inventors with investors who are looking for high-potential opportunities, especially in the biosciences and technology sectors. Committed to identifying and funding the most promising discoveries and advancing their commercialization by creating industry partnerships, licensing arrangements and new companies, MaRS has a multitude of buzzing commercialization deals on the go.

Reposted from Prolucid Technologies Inc.

Darcy is the Vice President of Operations at Prolucid Technologies Inc. His expertise lies in software design, product development and project management. Since 2001, he has perfected his skills in systems integration and software development.
The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit Altitude Accelerator for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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