Universities are a great source of technology and innovation.
Entrepreneurs are always looking for the next big idea, the next cool technology, the next life-saving cure.
Certainly, these next-generation technologies and concepts can be discovered in a variety of places, including private industry.
But one of the best—and perhaps still underutilized—sources of innovative technology for entrepreneurs is universities. University-based innovations come with built-in advantages that make them a great option for entrepreneurs.
For decades, university research has led to some of the most impressive scientific breakthroughs our society has seen:
» Taxol, an anticancer drug, was made by a process invented at Florida State University.
» Google, the world’s preeminent search engine, was developed at Stanford University.
» And stannous fluoride, used in some brands of Crest toothpaste, was first combined at Indiana University.
If you’re an entrepreneur looking for the next big thing, here are some reasons to look within universities.
Ample, Diverse and Multidisciplinary
Major research universities conduct an incredible volume and diversity of research, and consequently produce an impressive volume and diversity of technology.
Moreover, by virtue of housing dozens and sometimes hundreds of different academic departments, universities are uniquely positioned to conduct interdisciplinary research—more so than, say, a pharmaceutical company. Thus, universities can produce some truly innovative, cross-cutting technologies that you won’t find in more narrowly focused organizations.
Powered by Peer Review
Another benefit of university-based research and technology is that it is already peer reviewed before it gets to you. Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people of similar competence to the producers of the work—i.e., peers.
Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards of quality, improve performance and provide credibility. Again, this all happens before you, the entrepreneur, decide to pursue the technology.
It’s Already Funded
Academia is one of the crown jewels of U.S. research and development and the source of more than 60 percent of the nation’s basic research.
The majority of academic research is funded by outside sources, typically through a competitive grant process and most often sponsored by the federal government. This research provides a base that, with additional funding, creates new tools and technologies with commercial potential.
Another advantage to exploring universities as a source of technology is that the entrepreneur can maintain an ongoing relationship with the inventor and his or her team to further the development of the technology.
Contracting with the university is inherently more cost-effective than hiring full-time employees for startup companies and allows those inventors who intimately know the technology to leverage their expertise and the capabilities of their lab toward further development of the technology.
Universities Want to Partner With You
At its core, academia is largely designed to pursue basic research. And without question, there has historically been a reluctance—if not an outright hostility—to engage with industry to create consumer products or marketplace solutions.
But the pendulum has swung in recent years, and there is unquestionably a push in academia, particularly among state-supported public universities, to demonstrate the economic value they add to the region. Universities have made translational research and technology commercialization a priority, and they are judging themselves—and being judged by legislators and donors—in this area.
Nationally, you’re now seeing more and more universities reorganizing and bolstering their commercialization operations, encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset among their faculty and students. The bottom line is, universities are actively seeking relationships with entrepreneurs like you, and they have a stake in whether you succeed in taking their technology to the next level.
Finding the next big thing isn’t getting easier. But for entrepreneurs, there has never been a better time to take a look at the research portfolio of major research universities.