Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 74
8 Some New Ideas for Speeding Up the Development of Products from University Research Kenneth A.Pickar1 California Institute of Technology There is no question from what we have heard that university research is of increasing importance to industry and that this is controversial. Big companies have been neglecting basic research. For example, the number of publications from IBM and Bell Laboratories dropped by a factor of 2 between 1985 and 1995. At this rate it is clear that universities will be of increasing importance to industrial research. Within the industrial portfolio, there are high-risk/high-reward investments and there are low-risk/incremental improvement investments. Universities can, in principle, be leveraged for benefits in both scenarios, but in reality universities are much better suited to the former. According to Clayton Christensen,2 businesses are often hit by sneak attacks from new technologies they do not expect. These new technologies threaten to make some company research obsolete. Connections to universities can help industrial scientists be prepared for some of these technological attacks. I remember the days when industrial scientists felt like they needed to have most research and development under their control. The chemical industry has led the way in showing that need not be the case. Two things that a company needs to do well no matter how big it is are (1) form partnerships and alliances to provide for the research and development they cannot do themselves and (2) be open minded about ideas that come from other sources. Both of these can require working closely (collaborating) with universities. From the university’s perspective, these relationships can be very attractive. First, there is the obvious desire to tap some of the economic value of such partnerships. A cycle exists wherein technology is spun out of universities and makes companies successful. In return, corporate donations and royalties come back to the universities. Licensing revenues can be very substantial. In addition, start-up companies can create very wealthy entrepreneurs who are carefully tracked by the university. Eventually the 1 Kenneth A.Pickar is currently professor of mechanical engineering at the California Institute of Technology and co-principal investigator of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Entrepreneurial Fellowship Program. His previous experience includes positions at Bell Laboratories, GE, and Allied Signal, Inc. 2 Clayton M.Christensen. 1997. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
OCR for page 75
entrepreneur receives a phone call because the university expects some return. The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and many other institutions have traditionally enjoyed such benefits. In addition, universities vying for young engineering and scientific faculty require a fairly robust entrepreneurship program. In engineering and applied science, Caltech competes with its peers by showing prospective faculty members examples of past Caltech professors who have successfully spun out new companies. Caltech demonstrates it has an atmosphere that values this activity, at least for professors who are established with tenure! To meet their goals, universities then want to work with companies both nascent and mature. The result is that industry-university research has grown from about $1.5 billion in 1994 to $2.6 billion in 1999, a 10 percent compound annual growth rate. Industrial support of research at universities as a fraction of total academic effort has grown as well, showing that industry and academia are becoming more important to each other. Despite this encouraging news, the details are not pretty. Even casual observation shows that the amounts of wasted energy, misspent effort, and lost opportunity are very large, especially compared with the normal standards given to managers of industrial enterprises. They are asked to maximize value, minimize defects, and increase productivity from all of their activities. Thus, a target-rich environment exists for improvement. The root cause for the dysfunction is the cultural impedance mismatch between academia and industry. From the industrial perspective the university often shows amazing naïveté. The average professor will assume that he has created a great technology. He will then grossly underestimate the amount of effort required to commercialize this technology, with major challenges like distribution, financing, and marketing undervalued. The notion that it is possible to sprinkle a relatively small amount of money and effort on a great technology to create a commercialized product is, of course, completely false. Our students of entrepreneurship develop their business plans based on a developing technology. It can take them 5 or 6 months of commercialization activity before they realize some of the profound business difficulties associated with their activity. There is also a suspicion of entrepreneurs based on the cultural misunderstanding of business. Universities fear that they are going to be exploited, that the business people they deal with are fundamentally dishonest. Academics fear that business partners will spend too much on the business and not share enough with their university partners. First-time entrepreneurs can be so suspicious of their corporate partner that they will hold back important information. They are afraid that their business partner will expropriate their product because academics feel it is trivially easy to steal intellectual property just as it is trivially easy to commercialize the resulting technology. Although business schools associated with many universities could help here, with notable exceptions there is an amazing lack of academic interest in the study of technology management and commercialization. Thus, it can be an uphill fight to gain academic recognition in business schools for technology commercialization. Another barrier to the industry-academia relationship is the “if it’s not broken, why fix it?” mentality. Presently, many universities are quite well supported by government research funding. There is a fear that stronger ties to industry would compromise the current direction of university research and, worse, could even compromise scholarly pursuits. Thus, it is no surprise that commercialization results are far from optimal. University research that could be converted to useful products is done not at all or done imperfectly. In a process sense, the latter stages of the development process can have very low first-pass yield. Consider as well the education process. Due to the lack of experiential understanding of the reality of the business world, students can emerge from the process essentially poorly educated. For example, as a result, those entrepreneurial graduates who start their own companies are prone to make mistakes—not just unavoidable mistakes but mistakes that could have been avoided.
OCR for page 76
To show how we have addressed these issues at Caltech in the entrepreneurial arena, I will discuss two areas. One is the Caltech Technology Transfer Office and the other is the Entrepreneurial Fellows Program, which I have been working on for the past year and a half. The Caltech Technology Transfer Office has issued approximately 40 to 50 patent licenses and options each year. That makes it approximately number three in the nation, which is remarkable for a comparatively small institution. In short, the Technology Transfer Office succeeded because it convinced the faculty that they were there to serve the professors, not the administration or the venture capital community. This is not to say that the Technology Transfer Office did not secure top-level administration support and venture capital support; they did. But the faculty was central. They identified the minority who were the key faculty interested in commercialization, and they worked on building confidence. They worked hard to get some early “good examples,” key to change a culture. In particular, they were very aggressive in filing invention applications. They understood that without intellectual property protection it is very hard to raise money and that obtaining that protection is very expensive. Thus, the Technology Transfer Office files provisional applications for all new invention disclosures—120 patents were issued in 2000, a very high number for an institution with only 275 faculty members. To encourage new commercialization ideas, the Technology Transfer Office created a “grubstake” program, a small venture fund supported by alumni and trustees. Up to eight projects are supported each year, at $30,000 to $50,000 per project. The concept is to develop technology that is not “ready for prime time”—not ready to be commercialized. For example, the money can support the development of an experimental prototype. There have been 30 awards since 1995; 10 have resulted in licensing agreements to companies and seven form the bases for new start-ups. To emphasize the faculty-centered nature of the program, a Caltech faculty member has to be involved in the project. Faculty members typically do not take the lead in this program or start their own companies. Their graduate students are the ones who take the lead, often with great passion, commitment, and a desire to change the world. The students work with experts to develop a preliminary business marketing plan. The Office of Technology Transfer then arranges for various service providers to assist, including law firms and certified public accountants. Although the professor typically creates the invention and writes the patent, Caltech owns it. However, if the professor wants to practice this technology exclusively commercially for a period of time, he or she can take out an option on the technology for a relatively nominal sum. The professor must commit to using the patented technology and make it successful within a 12-month period. If this is not done within 12 months, the option reverts back to the university and exclusivity is lost. If, however, the option is exercised, a company is formed, and Series A money is raised, Caltech will take a small percentage share of that company in return for granting an exclusive license. Thus, the entrepreneur does not have to pay out any money to Caltech but rather grants Caltech several percentage points share of the company. In addition to this investment interest in the company, Caltech will continue to support the company with various services. The professor who founded the company is also motivated to support the nascent company with a continuing stream of ideas and new inventions. A mutually beneficial “partnership” was formed as the Technology Transfer Office demonstrated it could move with simplicity and speed. It was able to achieve high commercialization productivity, and I would argue that this was done without interfering with the academic mission. I would like to talk now about the Entrepreneurial Fellows Program. It is a joint effort of Caltech and the Art Center (College of Design), funded initially by the NSF. Both of the participating institutions are small and without strong business strengths. However, many of the students at both schools are
OCR for page 77
interested in entrepreneur ship. The purpose of the Entrepreneurial Fellows Program is to educate students with an entrepreneurial frame of mind, not, as its prime purpose, to create new companies. There are a few career choices available for students who wish to become entrepreneurs. One is to enter directly into an entrepreneurial enterprise, make the normal mistakes, and then try again, learning from mistakes. An alternative is to advance to an M.B.A. degree, usually entered after a few years of employment. Another option, one that I often recommend to my students, is to join a company that has a successful business training program and good prospects. For the entrepreneur it can be effective to join a first-rate company, learn, and then invest that learning by starting an entrepreneurial enterprise. For Caltech students we decided to create another path to redress this gap between what the students learn in academia and what is required to start a company. We developed a relatively short-term but very intense business training program that would prepare them for the entrepreneurial world. The first Entrepreneurial Fellows Program lasted 9 months, during which students behaved as if they were part of a new company. The second iteration will be 6 months because of program improvements made based on the first program. Participants have to be recent graduates with a B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. Universities train students to do independent research, but this is irrelevant in a company environment. Students who are trained in a very competitive environment often do not have good cooperative experience, so our program is team based. Each team has its own mentor to assist it and aid the learning process. The fellows receive a stipend, and business expenses are covered as well. Our instructional staff are practitioners rather than professors. We have been very successful in obtaining the services of first-rate experienced people, often consultants, who come multiple times during the period of instruction to teach, spending additional time coaching our students. We use local angel investing groups (for example, Tech Coast Angels) and venture capitalists as well. We use a mixture of traditional and nontraditional teaching methodologies. We integrate traditional Caltech courses in product design and accounting into the program. Other teachings are typically divided into 1- to 2-day modules so that new knowledge can be immediately put into practice in a “learn/do” fashion. The program also involves a number of “charettes,” rigorous 2-day exercises during which students are given a problem, brainstorm concepts, and are required to present to an audience. The intensity and the team atmosphere help spur unusual ideas. Students also observe Tech Coast Angels meetings, watching and critiquing as entrepreneurs make business presentations. This affords the students an unusual opportunity to understand the standard for getting funded today. The curriculum contains all the obvious things you might expect. We begin with marketing and team building. The first weeks are spent calling potential customers and sizing market needs. We deliberately avoid technology development in the beginning to emphasize the importance of marketing in developing a product plan. We understand that students typically will work on technology because that is their comfort zone. We want to challenge them to think beyond that. We have finished with the first group of fellows who graduated at the end of March. The second group has been selected. The program is relatively expensive because we pay our entrepreneurs as fellows. To make the program more affordable, we have reduced the stipend for the second group and reduced the program duration from 9 to 6 months. All involved in the program enjoy working with these young people. We know that among them are going to be one or two who will make a big difference to society, perhaps changing the world as we know it. There is a lesson to be learned from this. Some of the students will present ideas that you know wouldn’t survive investor scrutiny. There is an issue of balancing expectations against reality. To resolve this dichotomy, we are all rigorous in defining our program as an educational experience. We will measure ourselves by the quality of the education provided, not by the number of businesses spun
OCR for page 78
out. Our students will then have a learning experience that they can apply to their present ideas or to develop new ideas. Finally, what can be done to encourage industry-academia collaborations? I have some experience in good business practices based on my background in industry at companies such as AT&T, General Electric, and AlliedSignal. I am now at a university, so I have added that perspective, too. I agree with the notion of simplicity that Jack Welch and the previous speaker, Jim Heath of UCLA, both espoused. Universities need to be easier to do business with. Clearly, there must be some flexibility in negotiation, and negotiation should not take months. Companies, too, must be simpler with a more standardized interface. They need to be proactive and flexible, involved with universities early and continuously. There are many poorly packaged commercialization opportunities as presented by the universities. What’s more, they don’t know what they don’t know. What does a professor typically know about the various applications of his technology? Companies are in the driver’s seat. Why shouldn’t they initiate the process? One thought is for a company to package its needs and then do a little shopping among universities, that is, compete individual universities. This is possible if a company has a well-defined vision of its technology needs and knows what problems need to be solved to achieve that vision. The entire search process can be much better defined and a long-range relationship decision made based on the quality of the professors, the professors’ desire to work with you, how easy it is to work with that university, and so on. This is intended as an entree and as a focusing exercise to prove to busy people that there is mutual interest in cooperating. It is also useful to concentrate on one or two good examples and demonstrate success. Internally to the company, I have learned from experience that someone in the company who really cares about the project is required. For example, it is clearly a waste to fund a specific university because one of our employees was an alumnus but had no technical or business interest in the results. After writing the check, we had no other close ongoing relationship with the research until it was time for renewal. However, companies should exploit their excellent networks of employee-alumni who know both the company and the university. They can serve as the eyes and ears to bring together company needs and university technologies. It is well known that the best way to transfer technology within a company is to move people. For example, researchers are often employed to help scale up a research process to production. In a similar fashion companies can work with graduate students, giving them the understanding that if everything works out well they could be hired to help transfer the technology. In addition, professors could be hired for sabbaticals in corporate research laboratories. Finally, projects could be considered for joint funding. A funding organization like the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NSF, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency could drive a program that helps bring industry and academia together. This is a win for everybody. DISCUSSION James R.Heath, University of California, Los Angeles: Once your students have completed this program, what do they go on to do? Kenneth A.Pickar: We have only completed 1 year. There were nine students. Some have joined other companies, some have continued to pursue their ideas, and some are going to graduate school. My contention is that those who go to work for companies will be better having gone through this because they will know something about business.
OCR for page 79
David E.Nikles, University of Alabama: When you have professors getting involved in being entrepreneurs and spinning off companies, you said that it doesn’t impact the academic mission. Is that really true? How much intellectual effort are they putting into these companies, pursuing NSF support while keeping graduate students busy and teaching classes? Kenneth A.Pickar: There have been cases of abuse. There is at least one case I know where a professor was spending more time running his company than performing his duties. That was a tenured professor who is no longer at Caltech. I believe he was asked to make a choice. There may be inappropriate decisions being made now as we speak, but if you look at any measure of Caltech’s productivity in the sciences, its government funding, or its publications, there are no signs that somehow position and privilege are being abused. A question was raised earlier about whether or not the students who work for these start-up companies are being exploited. I think there is a greater potential for abuse here. It is very difficult to get a job, especially in academia, without your professor’s recommendation. There is a correspondingly strong desire not to do anything that makes your professor angry. In some cases there have been students who were afraid to ask about starting a company because they were afraid their professors would think less of them. In other cases, professors were managing students who had developed their own company, treating them like graduate students even though they were postdoctoral scholars. I do not know how to quantify the extent of this problem, but I think it could be of concern. Ned D.Heindel, Lehigh University: The Chemical Sciences Roundtable met here a couple of weeks ago, and we heard from several of our friends from the National Institutes of Health and research corporations that big pharmaceutical firms have very recently changed their position on the patent story. You indicated on one of your slides that you have an aggressive tech transfer office that would seek to obtain those patents, take care of the cost, and protect the technology early on. What we have been hearing from big pharma is that if you have a patent, don’t come to us. There isn’t enough time running on it for us to take it to a commercial product. So if you patent a pharmaceutically related product, the industry is not interested. Kenneth A.Pickar: That concept may relate to drug discovery, which is an exceedingly long product development process. Those companies that I am aware of sell enablers to drug discovery. These inventions are patented and venture capitalists are funding them. If you build a successful product based on an enabling technology, big pharmaceutical companies are candidates to buy you, representing your liquidity event. Nancy L.Parenteau, Organogenesis, Inc.: You described a wonderful program to educate students on entrepreneurship, but the founders of these companies are in reality the faculty members. They are full-time professors with one or both feet in their academic labs, and in many cases they are going to have a very influential role in the spin-off company. As you’ve mentioned, they have sometimes too big an influence on the students that then go to the company. Therefore, can you envision a training program in entrepreneurship whereby the influential faculty can benefit? I find that in the biotech field there are people who really are in need of such a program. I think it is fabulous that the young people are assisting the faculty, but they are not going to be the chief financial officers, presidents, and chief executive officers. They are not going to be the heads of those companies. They will be very valuable employees and will climb the corporate ladder, but what about those influential faculty members?
OCR for page 80
Kenneth A.Pickar: I agree. There is a need. There are programs on campuses for entrepreneurial students but much less so for entrepreneurial professors. One exception I attended recently was at the UCLA medical school where, under the aegis of the UCLA Technology Transfer Office, the Tech Coast Angels, a Southern California investment group, put on a seminar for about 40 faculty on the capital acquisition process. However, it would be safe to say that based on my experience many professors lose interest in a company once it is started. They will get some stock and that is it. The professors see their students as having opportunities to venture into business, but it is not something that they themselves are obsessed with. Mary L.Mandich, Bell Labs: Does Caltech have a business school? Kenneth A.Pickar: I am the business school for Caltech. Caltech does not have a business school! Mary L.Mandich: Exactly. It strikes me that what you are actually doing is starting up a grassroots business school. Is there a need in the larger business school community for the type of program or course that you have here? Kenneth A.Pickar: That is a great question. Stanford has a fine business curriculum that was created by the engineering faculty because they couldn’t get enough attention to their problems in the traditional business school program. So they have the functional equivalent of a business school, and they have developed many companies from that engineering-based business school. I love that model. It is entrepreneurship at work in an educational environment. I will put in another plug for a program that is led from the University of Southern California also on an NSF grant. N2Tech is an entrepreneurial network of universities all over America, including the University of Arkansas, University of Pittsburgh, Cornell University, and others, whereby teams are formed and ideas are shared to benefit us all. For example, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is a great school, but it is not located in the center of technology in Indiana. Nevertheless, Rose-Hulman is able to get access to lawyers and venture capitalists. There are other experiments going on all over the country, but there is still a huge amount of opportunity. Joseph S.Francisco, Purdue University: I would like to add that the chemistry department at Purdue is considering partnering with the business school to supplement current courses and provide additional courses in entrepreneurship and business education without having students enroll in an additional 2-year program. Our research department has discovered a need and considers this an investment because it is good for the graduate students. Kenneth A.Pickar: The University of California, Berkeley, also has a Technology Management Certificate Program where students take classes in both the business and the engineering schools. Joseph S.Francisco: I think this is an increasing trend. Kenneth A.Pickar: There is no question. In October at Stanford University there is a roundtable on entrepreneurial education. This year the attendance will be limited because it has become so popular since its inception 3 or 4 years ago. Joseph S.Francisco: The University of Pennsylvania also has a program.
OCR for page 81
Kenneth A.Pickar: Yes, and of course they have one at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Sloan School of Management as well. Mary L.Mandich: This is a natural outlet for graduate students who want to go on in business as opposed to going to Wall Street. Michael Schrage, MIT: We had exactly these kinds of problems at MIT. However, unlike the situation at Stanford where the engineers ultimately became disgusted with the business school and set up their own shadow business school, things have been a little more cooperative at MIT within Sloan. This is reflective of a very important trend that merits special attention because the business schools are dealing with the same level of theory divorced from contact with the real world that often times chemical engineering and chemistry are accused of. As a result, engineering departments create their own business schools simply because of what the business schools have become. It is difficult to imagine which business school faculty you would go to for help with an entrepreneurial program. There is a real opportunity for chemistry departments, chemical engineering departments, and also at MIT again because of the material sciences. There isn’t a real activity there, and it has to move away from a consulting model and more toward serving on advisory boards. How many people here serve on science advisory boards at for-profit companies as opposed to management? One would think for a crowd like this one would get a disproportionately high number. To be on corporate advisory boards might be very interesting for deans and faculty. Of course, BP has a very good training program. Exxon has some excellent programs, and people then get good exposure to business issues even though they are brought in primarily because of their technical expertise. This becomes a nonthreatening way of dealing with some of these problems due to lack of business skills. Kenneth A.Pickar: When I was at GE and wanted to evaluate a program, I would call in the expert professors from MIT and Caltech, who would advise me on whether these programs were really what my scientists told me they were. I worked with about 20 professors at various times over the years. We have heard it from many people today—big companies are much better integrated with universities than they ever have been in the past. Ned D.Heindel, Lehigh University: I happen to have a reprint here from Technology Review for September 20013 which lists the institutions with the number of patents obtained. Caltech is right up there—third or fourth in the nation. Then institutions are listed based on economic return, and Caltech is down around number 20. I quote that “despite the glamour in entrepreneurship, the big money for a university usually comes from patents licensed to large, established companies—not start-ups.” You indicated your administration is extraordinarily supportive of programs like that. Why? Kenneth A.Pickar: I could say that the students who wanted to start companies and the professors wanting to start companies have outweighed those relations we have had with companies that wanted to license technologies, but there is huge opportunity in both. Ned D.Heindel: It is curious that the university administration is so supportive of cash and assistance and creating start-ups when apparently the better approach from the provost’s point of view would be to return the bottom line by licensing the big companies. 3 H.Brody. 2001. The TR university research scorecard. Technology Review 104:81–83.
OCR for page 82
Kenneth A.Pickar: That is a good point. Mary L.Good, University of Arkansas, Little Rock: The issue is that there are always those small companies. If you look at the ones that have gotten started, it is not that they give money back, but when the university starts a capital campaign, it knows where to go to get the money. Being on the Rensselaer Board of Trustees I can explain that to you in detail. Peter A.Koen, Stevens Institute of Technology: I wanted to comment about a cultural issue within the engineering department. I am in the technology management department at Stevens and teach a course to executives from companies on how to be a corporate entrepreneur. It is a 14-week course for two to three hours a week. At the end of that time, half of the groups get funding internally in their company anywhere between $100,000 and $500,000. In fact, 2 years ago one group actually got a commitment of a billion dollars at the end of 14 weeks. The typical student is 35 years old and 10 years postgraduate. The dean of the engineering school called me over and said, “We would like you to teach that same course to the Ph.D. students to help them be more entrepreneurial.” I replied, “Great, I would love to do it,” and then he said, “But we can’t give you 2 hours per week for 14 weeks. Could you teach it an hour per week in 5 weeks?” I asked, “Do you understand that there are many marketing issues such as understanding championing and putting together a business plan?” and he said, “Yes, yes, I understand that, but can’t you do it in 5 weeks and only an hour a week?” I told him it would not work, and he did not quite understand that. I didn’t know what to say. Starting my career as an engineer I didn’t understand the need for management until I had to deal with real management issues. Thus, there are real cultural issues that I don’t know how to get around. Kenneth A.Pickar: I suggest choosing only one topic such as marketing or finance. Just do one, do the best you can, and make sure there is plenty of homework they have to bring in to make the best use of that time. Make it a tutorial where you spend a half hour in the tutorial, but let them do all the work. If they get captured by the marketing, say, “I am doing finance next time.”
Representative terms from entire chapter: