Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Federal government spends $1.6 billion in 10 years to commercialize university research through the ‘valley of death’

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The federal government invests $2.2 billion for the commercialization of university research, putting “university innovation and collaboration with industry at the heart of Australia’s economic recovery.”

Part of this funding includes $1.6 billion over ten years for the Australian Economic Accelerator – a new competitive funding program to help university projects bridge the so-called “valley of death” – the place between the laboratory bench or research environment and the market, where many good ideas essentially die.

The financial impulse from the government is a step in the right direction. This is why it is needed and how it will work.

Australia’s commercialization landscape

Australia is home to of the very best level research universities. Although we have groundbreaking ideas from our university researchers, struggle to get ideas originated in our labs to innovative products in the market.

In a February 2021 speech then Education Minister Alan Tudge pointed to the low number of disclosures of inventions in Australia, which he said were the “first step in the commercialization process”. An invention disclosure is a confidential document written by a scientist or engineer for use by a company’s patent department, or by an outside patent attorney, to determine whether to seek patent protection for the disclosed invention.

tudge said:

[…] Survey data shows that Australian public research organizations published an average of about 20 inventions in 2016, about the same as in 2004, despite more than quadrupling in research output. In addition, the average number of 20 invention disclosures in Australia is comparable to over 40 in Canada, over 60 in Israel and over 120 in the US.

Significant barriers to commercialization, including low collaboration between industry and university exist† Another major barrier is the lack of significant proof-of-concept funding, preventing many of our brilliant ideas in the “Valley of Death

Proof of concept may include a trial of a drug or a technology prototype to demonstrate the feasibility of a product.

All Australian universities conduct commercialization research to varying degrees. While the Group of Eight has endured more effort and fundsresources available at other Australian universities are significantly limited.

Even at the prestigious Group of Eight universities, the level of funding available for proof of concept could only support a limited number of projects per year, mainly for the so-called “first level ideas† These are premium ideas in leading disciplines such as health that have a higher chance of success. This limits the ability for strategic commercialization and affects so-called second-rate ideas, even though these ideas have potential. It is important to understand what drives commercial decisions at the university level.

Barriers to Commercialization

Suppose an innovative idea has to be commercialized at a certain university. For starters, universities typically screen some idea of: three key angles

  1. technical – the nature of the core technology, how it develops and what it does
  2. intellectual property – how the nature of the project’s intellectual property is evolving
  3. commercial – the commercial potential for the technology and key markets.

Certain universities (such as the University of Queenland) also take other measures such as the Technology Readiness Level adopted by NASA to assess how ready to bring the technology to market.

If the idea is attractive enough, the commercialization arm of the university decides to researchers to develop the intellectual property strategy† The university may also provide competitive in-house proof-of-concept funding to develop a prototype (such as a working medical device).

There are also other sources of funding. For example, external funding sources such as: UniSeed, state and federal government funding, or even private capital can be effective in getting the idea to a working stage. After this point, challenges still remain, especially with regard to finding key markets.

The success of an innovative idea (such as a new technology) is further influenced by: industry adoption, an important market. Depending on the proof of concept, the industry may show great interest, or decide to wait until there is more evidence. This can be multiple experiments to provide data on how the product works.

The majority of industries in Australia are small and medium-sized enterprises. These organizations may not have the capacity to absorb new technology. These are also barriers to commercialization.

Why Federal Funding Matters

A prototype is the bare minimum of proof and from prototype to product, it can take years† At this stage, resource support is needed to see if the idea comes to market as a product. Universities and their pool of creative ideas can plunge into the so-called “valley of death” in the absence of significant proof of concept and subsequent funding.

This is exactly where the $1.6 billion funding from the federal government can help. Universities in Australia should be wise to scan innovative ideas using meaningful frameworks, engage with the market to find strategic industry partners and ensure that these ideas are actually turned into exciting products that benefit the greater society. good can come.

Federal government funding could potentially help many of our brilliant ideas avoid the valley of death. This support of resources is needed not only to fund the proof of concept, but to further support a working concept to develop into a real product available in the market.

This article was republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article

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