By Chuck Kerrigan

Business negotiators traditionally seek win-win results. The University – Venture Capital relationship creates the opportunity for win-win-win results. A win for the entrepreneur, a win for the university, and a win for the venture capitalist. This relationship leverages the strengths of each of the three parties. The entrepreneur contributes the innovative idea, the university the institutional support, and the venture capitalist the market intelligence, the commercialization know-how, and the external resources. With this paradigm, the results can be outstanding – for everyone!   

The passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980 revolutionized technology transfer from university laboratories to the commercial sector. This legislation allowed universities to own, patent, and license inventions developed under their federally funded research programs, enabling them to reap the financial rewards generated by their innovations. Not only did it motivate universities to become more actively involved in tech transfer endeavors, but it also mandated that they prioritize small businesses for commercialization opportunities creating a lasting impact and benefiting their local economies.

In recent years, this has made a big difference in fostering new venture development and innovation. Thanks to the uniform patent policies now established across universities, because of the Act, there is now better support available for researchers looking to get their ideas off the ground and make an impact on society through their work. This is truly a great success story of how federal legislation can indeed create positive change; by implementing uniform patent policies and modernizing research infrastructure, universities can maximize the potential of their tech transfer programs – driving increased license and patent applications, fostering startup creation, and creating jobs.

Tech transfer is an essential activity in modern universities, enabling them to monetize their research and development into revenue-generating products. Through strategic collaboration with industry partners, universities can invest and thereby maximize the potential of their technologies, creating new opportunities for growth and development. This enhanced revenue model has a powerful positive impact on the university with the potential for reinvestment in its research programs and activities. Still, it also adds to the overall educational resources available to the university. Over time, this identified revenue pool should expand with a well-managed program – providing universities with more opportunities for success. It’s an exciting model with huge potential, and it’s become essential if universities want to stay competitive in today’s tech-savvy world.

Universities are in an advantageous position to leverage their institutional knowledge and research capabilities to create competitive advantages. Investing in their enterprises, universities can benefit from revenue streams that weren’t accessible before, providing a much-needed buffer during times of declining enrollment and other industry challenges. By taking advantage of this internal opportunity, universities can become more self-sufficient and more competitive in their respective markets. 

The potential rewards of investing in enterprises created by universities are great, but so are the risks. As with all great recipes, it is attention to detail that matters. It is, therefore, important that universities proceed with caution when making investment decisions. Careful consideration and due diligence should be taken before investing, ensuring that the enterprise is viable and has a realistic chance of success. With proper management, universities can gain competitive advantages while avoiding unnecessary risks. Venture capital firms have become reliable partners for university researchers to bring their innovative technologies to market. By collaborating with venture capitalists, these tech innovators can gain access to the market experience, business acumen, networks, and resources they need to launch successful startups. With this partnership in place, universities are better placed to turn research-based intellectual property into products and services with real-world applications. This paradigm creates a winning situation in which universities and venture capitalists can combine their knowledge and capabilities to create success stories that bring meaningful benefits to the university community and to the wider economy.

As an example, the challenge of managing successful commercialization and investment programs in the life sciences can be daunting. With a failure rate of over 90% for technologies entering FDA clinical trials, significant risks are associated with such investments. Universities and their supported technologies may reduce this rate of failure slightly. However, it still leaves a large percentage of projects going down the drain – along with billions of dollars in development costs. Fortunately, there are alternatives to traditional methods that can help mitigate these risks and ultimately increase the chances of success for a commercialization or investment program. By combining expertise from various disciplines, taking a professional approach to regulatory compliance, and investing more strategically, it is possible to create an environment where the chances of success are significantly increased to help to achieve the desired goals while minimizing risk and maximizing potential financial gains.

Ultimately, it all comes down to a simple principle: investing smartly. In the ever-changing world of biotech and pharmacology, venture capitalists must be equipped to make informed decisions that will result in profitable outcomes. With the right strategies, investors can identify and capitalize on ground-breaking technologies that have the potential to thrive in the long run, forgoing those that may lead to a dead end. By following this principle, venture capitalists can maximize the potential of their investments and increase their chances of achieving successful exits.

University-venture capital collaborations have proven influential in driving innovation and economic growth. With the insight of venture capitalists coming from experience, combined with the leadership and technical knowledge of university researchers, these partnerships offer an invaluable opportunity for both parties to capitalize on opportunities for progress. Utilizing this collaboration effectively can help to avoid common pitfalls that have brought down promising technologies in the past, allowing great ideas to succeed and reach their full potential. Even the most ambitious visions can become a reality through effective collaboration between venture capitalists and university researchers.

We have the chance to make a real impact on business success through innovation, thereby achieving the economic growth aspirations of the Bayh-Dole Act when it was first introduced. This paradigm creates the foundation for successful entrepreneurs, fostering employment, enabling universities to supplement their revenue, and can lead to outstanding returns for venture capitalists! What’s not to like about unlocking this potential?!

About the Author

Chuck Kerrigan, is an accomplished global business executive with extensive experience in commercial and private banking, venture capital, and nonprofits.  As an Area Head for the USA Mid-Atlantic Region, Chuck successfully launched and grew the corporate banking practice for a large European-based bank.  With experience as a FINRA-licensed Financial Consultant, he has sourced and counseled ultra-high-net-worth clients for nationally recognized private banking and wealth management firms.  Through his affiliation with internationally based venture capital firms, Chuck has guided and assisted in the development of many types of enterprises from startups through their growth phases.  His work with established nonprofits includes responsibilities as a university trustee and Chair of numerous nonprofit committees such as a $1 billion investment program for pension and non-pension assets.