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At Lakehead University, the intellectual property commercialization process to move a discovery from the academic setting to the marketplace consists off our major phases:
- Invention Evaluation
- Business Evaluation
- Commercialization Plan Development & Implementation, and
- New Business Creation and Support in appropriate cases
The Economic Development and Innovation office (EDI) supports projects throughout the commercialization the process.The EDI team focuses on intellectual property (IP) with commercial potential, dedicating its time to scientific, technical, and business evaluations, and determining the appropriate commercialization mode for each invention. The EDI office performs evaluations of University innovations, protects intellectual property through patenting (or other appropriate mechanisms), and licenses suitable IP to external sources. In appropriate circumstances, the EDI office focuses on creating new companies based on University discoveries, which then become the receptor of University licenses.
Lakehead University researchers are involved in many different forms of basic and applied research and development. Occasionally a researcher makes a discovery that would benefit society by being transferred out of the University through commercialization. In addition, members of the Northwestern Ontario community, including regional industry, make discoveries.
In the instance of such a discovery, the researcher contacts the EDI office to disclose the discovery. The researcher completes an Invention Disclosure Form (with the assistance of the EDI) in preparation for patenting or other protection.The researcher agrees at this stage to assign any intellectual property to the University as a condition of commercialization. At the appropriate time, and if warranted, an EDI staff member takes the necessary steps to patent or otherwise protect the discovery, and license the discovery outside the University.
During these early stages, an EDI staff member screens and evaluates the technology using a variety of tools, to make sure the technology is sound and the IP is clear and unencumbered. If the researcher wants to do a start-up and the EDI sees business potential, the Director, Industry Research Partnerships is brought into the process.
The Director, Industry Research Partnerships performs a business feasibility evaluation for IP with start-up company potential, which culminates in a recommendation as to the best path to commercialization for a technology.
Based on the results of the business feasibility evaluation, the EDI office either:
- refers the IP and business concept to external networks for feedback and support;
- assists in locating funding for additional research on the IP;
- licenses or waives the University's right to the IP; or
- in the case of evaluations favouring a start-up opportunity,begins the process to create a new business.
Commercialization Plan Development and Implementation
In the event of a favourable Invention Evaluation and Business Evaluation, a Commercialization Plan is developed and implemented by the EDI office. The Commercialization Plan may include such activities as prototype development, intellectual property protection through patents or other means, identification of potential licensees, and in appropriate cases, start-up company creation and development.
New Business Creation and Support
In the case of a new business, the researcher and the EDI office begin to work on the business plan. Once a business plan is completed, the EDI office may license the technology to the new company. A Start-Up Team is formed, normally consisting of the EDI office Director, Innovation Development, and others. The Start-Up Team may assist in a search for an appropriate management team and board of directors. If appropriate, the Start-Up Team uses its resources to recruit a CEO to lead the new business.
When the company begins to take shape, the Start-Up Team assists the new company in seeking additional funds through outside sources such as angel investors or venture capitalists. Depending on the stage of the company, funding may allow the new company to begin operations, complete additional work to establish proof-of-concept, or develop a prototype.
As the new venture becomes a free-standing entity, the University, and the new company, monitors the agreements and fulfils ongoing obligations.