University Patent Commercialization

The S. Neaman Institute supported program: Entrepreneurship Laboratory, conducted by Professor Miriam Erez and Professor Avi Fiegenbaum, was finalized with the design of an action-learning course in Entrepreneurship called E-lab. In this course, business plans for Technion patents were developed by teams composed of MBA students together with the patent inventor(s) and coached by venture capital managers.

After a successful pilot during Spring 2003 by Dr. Zipi Shperling assisted by Galit Lev-Ran, the course was given during Spring 2004 and Fall 2004 by Professor Uzi de-Haan and Tali Sivan, a doctorate student as teaching assistant, with great success.  As a result, the number of students participating in the course given in Winter 2005/2006 and again in 2006/2007 has doubled, with two parallel E-labs - one for patents from the life sciences and the other for hi-tech patents. Students from life science faculties have also joined the course and serve as technological experts in mixed teams with MBA students. This approach was a result of close cooperation with deans from the life sciences faculties, aimed at teaching life science graduate students practical e-ship.

The E-lab course presented the opportunity to develop a research model for the management of the opportunity discovery and evaluation process in universities in such a way that the expected value of the patent is enhanced.

The research proposes a new theoretical framework to enhance the economic value of universities’ patents in the commercialization stage. We introduce a management intervention within the university before a patent is presented to external interested parties. The intervention is aimed at creating a competitive knowledge base, which feeds into the discovery–evaluation process and as a result, enhances the economic value of the initial opportunity presented by the inventor. The model assumes a spiral process, namely, that the discovery–evaluation process is an iterative cycle, ending in an exploitation of an opportunity, which most likely will be different from the initial one but with a higher expected economic value.

The model proposes two sources for creating a competitive knowledge base. One is by using an entrepreneurial management team (EMT) consisting of MBA students who work together with the patent inventor. Their joint prior knowledge is greater than the prior knowledge of a single inventor.The second calls for using external knowledge resources, including the course instructors, venture capitalists and technology-business experts, who served as consultants and provided feedback to the entrepreneurial management team.

The research model was empirically examined on six teams during the third time the course was offered during Fall 2004. Initial findings supported the proposed theory and model. The results demonstrated that this process leads to the creation of competitive knowledge that stimulates the re-conceptualization of the initial opportunity discovered by the inventor, and the evaluation process, resulting in an opportunity that is more attractive to investors.

The model has been further developed and validated with the following research objectives:

  • To focus on the opportunity discovery and evaluation phase of the patent
  • To explore the competitive knowledge effect on the opportunity expected value.
  • To explore the effect of team cooperation with the inventor on competitive knowledge.
  • To explore the effect of the team's network on competitive knowledge.
  • To explore the effect of team diversity on competitive knowledge.
  • To explore our model in the university commercialization setting, by applying it to future E-lab courses.
  • To explore the effect team processes have on the opportunity discovery process.

A paper on the effects of team composition and processes on the opportunity discovery process was presented at the 2006 Babson Entrepreneurship Research Conference.

Additional data for this study was collected during the 2005/06 and 2006/07 E-lab courses.  After processing this additional data, a proposal for a presentation at the upcoming Academy of Management Conference will be submitted.


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