Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Commercialization of University Innovation

Greetings from the first Innovation ANU commercialisation and business development program event. These are happening over the next six weeks, with seminars and workshops on how to commercialize an idea and plan the business to exploit it. Teams will then be selected and helped to develop their ideas. As well as several prizes and thousands of dollars of assistance there is $7M of internal funding available to commercialize the ideas. The event was organized by the ANU Office of Commercialization. Details will be provided on the ANU web site next week.

The first seminar was a curious event, held in the foyer of the John Curtin School of Medical Research. This building looks like a space-dock out of Star Trek. After drinks in the foyer, we went into the Finkel Lecture Theatre, to hear about the project (same location as one on Research Participation in the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Program). The first seminar "Commercialization 101" was by Hamish Hawthorn, Chief Executive Officer of ATP Innovations.

The Finkel Lecture Theatre is one I associate with high technology, as the last time I was hear was to hear the Australian Department of Defence ask for help with research for the f-35 project.

ATP Innovations is based at ATP in Sydney. This has resonances for me as I previously helped ATP run seminars, launched a new journal there, got bought lunch by their software engineers and used ATP as an example of innovation.

Commercialization 101

The first seminar was a presentation about the ideas behind commercialization. There were no slides show or notes, which made it very different to the average academic lecture. This might have been done to shake the staff and students out of their usual mode of working.

The iPod and new drug development were used as examples of innovations. The example of the iPod white earplug were used as an example of good marketing ("cool factor"). The options for commercialization were discussed.

However, without some of the usual academic props of slides and notes I felt uncomfortable. Perhaps this will change over the coming weeks, with the later seminars.

As it is, I felt I was being given one of the seminars satirized in QANTAS TV advertisements. In these a motivational speaker is asking the class "where are you?", "where do you want to be?", "how do you want to get there?". As they ask this a bored member of the class takes over the computer screen and finds themselves a QANTAS flight to get out of there. For researchers and academics not in the business field it is difficult to distinguish what is genuine advice from experts and what is not.

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