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Archive for 2010

What You Need to Start a Virtual Commercialization Hub

Posted November 23rd, 2010 by admin

During last week’s national call hosted by Technology Transfer Tactics, we were given the opportunity to share details on ITN’s business model. It’s a unique structure as a virtual commercialization office for a dozen small colleges and universities, and over our five-year lifespan we’ve learned many lessons. While our growth is still a work-in-progress, I’ll share three major points for groups looking to harness academic talent that is spread across multiple institutions.

Identify Key Economic Development Players- find the economic development and funding organizations in your region who see the long term value of connecting faculty and business and get their commitment. You need people willing to go to bat for the organization. ITN could not have launched without the support of economic development groups from Lancaster and Harrisburg, as well as the  PA Department of Community and Economic Development, Penn State Harrisburg, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners/CNP. These early leaders “got it” and were willing to put their money-where-their-mouth-is, by putting in sponsorship dollars, funding staff, giving us space and equipment, and providing access and support from their own staff. These leaders give you the credibility you need in the early days, before you have any real deliverables to showcase.

Fund Seed Grants - We put into play a bucket of money specifically set aside to fund small projects between faculty and business. Up to $20,000 has been available for faculty to apply for and use to accelerate a product or service. Over time we’ve learned that a committed business needs to be involved (not just a signature on a page), bringing cash match or a similar equivalent, and the deliverable has to demonstrate progress toward commercialization. Research for research sake does not help us meet our organizational objectives and plenty of other funding sources, with deeper pockets, support such activities. These seed grants are a great way to bring entrepreneurial faculty out of the woodwork and begin collaborations, particularly in the beginning.

Find Your Niche(s)- The sooner you can identify which pockets of talent and industry segments your faculty are engaged in, the quicker you can gain momentum and begin productive collaboration. Our industry/faculty groups happen to be things like biofuels, simulation and gaming, and engineering, however, they could be anything. There’s real value in connecting faculty across campuses who are doing similar work. This allows you to be a resource for companies in the region (or ones considering your region), and it pools together resources to attract grant funding. Ideas feed off ideas and connecting faculty and students from across campuses increases the innovation factor significantly.  It also gives you multiple options when trying to connect with a business partner. With student work loads, faculty class commitments, and outside projects, you need options to make a timely fit when a company project comes into play. Not all faculty are available at the moment you need them.

These puzzle pieces lead to all kinds of exciting options, including lively faculty forums, industry forums, new product launches, and bigger grants. We attracted over $800,000 in funding for a regional biofuels center, available to all the faculty and companies in our network, largely thanks to these three elements. Of course, this raises other challenges, not the least of which is staffing and sustainability. The more your organization can demonstrate an ability (or real potential) to attract regional talent, keep talent, accelerate company growth, and assist economic development, the more likely state-wide funding will occur.

Why Colleges and the Business Community Need Each Other to Survive

Posted November 5th, 2010 by admin

A three legged stool is how our guest speaker at the recent Seconds vs Semesters event referenced the relationship between the business community and its surrounding colleges and universities. A college campus brings only one of the three elements needed for commercialization success, according to Mr. Jerry McGuire, Associate Vice-Chancellor of Economic Development at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The other two elements are found outside the campus. Enter the business community.

New ideas, fresh technology and research are in rich supply across the academic community, particularly when you consider the entire student, staff and faculty population. What those ideas need in order to move up the food chain are management and funding. Ideas provide the framework for a potential new business or product. The business community can insert the right team and the necessary funding to navigate the path from the back of a napkin to the shop floor or retail shelf.

McGuire argues that once the university has developed the idea and demonstrated a market, “there is this valley of death in which the other two elements don’t exist at the university and is out there in the community…in all university scenerios having an organization or method to connect with funding (whether grants, banks, or angel investment) and management is very critical to any idea that needs to move foward in the commercial sense.”

A recent New York Times article confirms McGuires notion that universities need to engage with the business community and investors. According to the article, the highly touted Sand Hill venture firm, Andreessen Horowitz (the guys who founded Netscape) sends their staff to college campuses to identify promising engineers for portfolio companies. This is further confirmation that a productive economic development balance relies on the trio of ideas, management, and funding or, said another way, business, academia, and investors.

Watch a brief video interview with Jerry McGuire.

Meet the Media Lounge Guests

Posted October 12th, 2010 by admin

Adding to the excitement of the upcoming Seconds vs Semesters featured speaker, Mr. Jerry McGuire, is our line up of CEO’s, entrepreneurs and faculty who will be participating in the media lounge interviews on October 25, 2010.

It’s a high caliber networking opportunity - a chance to meet faculty who are involved in interesting company projects, students with an eye on innovation, and CEO’s who support community engagement with local college and university talent to move business forward.  

Take a peek at the business leaders joining ITN in the media lounge and get registered today!

Mr. Richard Dennis - President of Die-Tech Inc. in York Haven, Pa. Mr. Dennis is responsible for the vision, culture, and alignment of the company.

Mr. Larry Dittman- President of Elabyrinth Solutions, and serial entrepreneur. Mr. Dittman is involved in the development of a new organization focused on assisting and mentoring second stage entrepreneurs.

Ms Cathy von Birgelen- Director, eMarketing Learning Center. Ms von Birgelen has been tapped to lead this new program which celebrates its launch during the ITN event. The Center is part of the Ben Franklin Venture Investment Forum network of services.

Dr. Sairam Rudrabhatia- Penn State Harrisburg, Department of Environmental Engineering. Dr. Sairam, as he is known, is connected with the venture investment community, has licensed his technology to mulitple corporate partners, holds several patents, and has attracted significant grant dollars to his biodiesel and molecular pharming initiatives.

Mr. Kyle Ashe - International Business Major with a concentration in Marketing and a Minor in Spanish. Mr. Ashe is actively involved in the Student Senate, the Peer Review Board under the Dean, and has studied abroad in Ecuador. He is a Senior at Elizabethtown College.

Here’s One Way to Keep Good Ideas Brewing!

Posted September 29th, 2010 by admin

The arrival of Mr. Jerry McGuire to speak at Seconds vs. Semesters is just one of the ways ITN plans to keep good ideas brewing throughout the region! Before Mr. McGuire takes the stage to share his experience in corporate (as the former head of international marketing and licensing at Westinghouse) and his current leadership role at UNCG, you’ll have the opportunity to stimulate conversation at the coffee bar (or the soda bar for the non-coffee drinkers) and visit us at the media lounge.

Beginning at 5:30pm on October 25th, join us as we intermingle smart professionals with caffeine and do our part to percolate innovation and learn from one of North Carolina’s most progressive thought leaders. Both the coffee bar and our interactive media lounge (more on that in a coming blog) will be vibrant hubs of activity at our event, held at the Elizabethtown College KAV, inside the Brossman Commons.

If you haven’t claimed your seat at the event yet, get the details and REGISTER.

UNC-G Innovation Leader Speaks to the Power of Collaboration & How to Harness It!

Posted September 9th, 2010 by admin

Using descriptors like “academentia” as part of his spirited economic development presentations, Jerry McGuire dares to challenge traditional thinking in business and academia. Sitting at the eye of a thriving east coast mega-region, Mr. McGuire is experienced in helping colleges and universities create significant value, and bottom-line results, in a fast-paced business environment.

As the Associate Vice-Chancellor for Economic Development at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Mr. McGuire is slated to deliver an energetic and thought-provoking presentation, Seconds vs. Semesters, speaking to corporate CEO’s, faculty and students at Elizabethtown College on Monday, October 25, 2010.  The Innovation Transfer Network (ITN), South Central PA’s bridge between the private sector and a network of academic institutions, is pleased to host Mr. McGuire and provide a platform for him to share examples of what works and what doesn’t in kick-starting an economic transformation.

Over the coming weeks, ITN will release snippets outlining other cool interactive elements of the event which will take place at the KAV, at Elizabethtown College. The opportunity to host such a lively guest means ITN is planning a unique mix of media, networking and content meant to fuel an ongoing discussion! Visit this blog weekly to keep up and register for this event.

Resource Trifecta Boosts Energy Start-Ups

Posted August 20th, 2010 by admin

Companies and faculty looking for resources to support commercialization and new company start-ups in the energy space now have triple the options to choose from. The influx of federal programs focused on energy innovation, combined with these PA resources, means there’s no excuse for keeping new technology on the shelf or in a drawer.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Central & Northern PA  (BFTP-CNP) has added Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR), Marty Bradley, to assist in moving energy-related technology from the campus to market. Marty brings extensive experience running start-ups to the table. He understands the challenges of launching products on a dime, searching for funding sources, and identifying market potential.

Here at the ITN basecamp, Malcolm Furman adds to the region’s entrepreneurial support by engaging his background at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in technology review and grants.  Malcolm interacts with faculty across ITN to accelerate new technology development and link companies with campus expertise.

If you’re an existing company looking for a cluster of energy-related activity, the Virtual Energy Incubator (VEI) has launched. Check out this cloud community of start-up energy companies and clean technology bolstered by BFTP-CNP resources and expertise. This vibrant online initiative is led by Brian Krier.

Since three times is a charm, we’re betting you’ll find this trio a winning ticket for Central Pennsylvania’s energy innovation.

Game On

Posted June 25th, 2010 by admin

The region’s first gaming meeting between faculty and businesses kicked off in June, as the SSGX group (simulation and serious games) met at JPL in Harrisburg. A lively clan from across South Central PA came together to discuss several important topics around creating a gaming hub and raising awareness of the talent in this region.

With the growth of gaming across the country, several issues were raised between attendees. How do we define gaming in this region? What are the current projects underway in the group? What challenges does the region face in terms of growth in this sector? One topic bantered about was the need to educate businesses that “gaming” does not equate to “playing.” New technology and the influx of a younger generation has created the opportunity for more effective, engaging, learning tools. The ability to interact with a scenario, while learning new material, decision-making skills or “how to” accomplish a task is an important element to employee training and growth.

As you might expect, the group is a tech savvy bunch and plans to communicate between meetings using (  Join the group virtually, or network in person at the next meeting slated for September 8th, tentatively set at Millersville University. (email ITN directly at

Manufacturers Tap Faculty for Trends in Health Care

Posted May 28th, 2010 by admin

The prevalence of “non-invasive” and “minimally invasive” surgery, and products that support these procedures, was a hot topic during a brainstorming session between manufacturing company, Die-Tech, and faculty researchers from area health care campuses. Like many companies, Die-Tech is on the look-out to expand their competitive edge and recognizes the value of  faculty expertise located within striking distance of their operation. As an ITN business innovation partner, Die-Tech asked ITN to coordinate a brainstorming lunch with industry trends and innovation as the featured dish.

Reaching into our network, ITN pulled together talent from the Penn State College of Medicine and Lancaster General Health. Both academic institutions understand the need to be connected with industry and the importance of hearing straight from a CEO.  In these meetings, faculty hear first-hand the practical challenges a management team faces from customers and competitors. In turn, the executives hear how new technology is being tried and tested by experts and what impact the new health care regulations are having at premier health care campuses. These insights assist executives like Richard Dennis, President, Die-Tech  and Anson Flake, CEO of HydroWorx, in steering product development and strategic marketing as they aim to develop the answer to specific industry problems.

Pre-nups and Horse Trading

Posted April 16th, 2010 by admin

Having the right “pre-nup” in place was one piece of advice from the CEO panel at the PA Bio breakfast roundtable this week. And they weren’t referring to marriage, at least not as we typically define it. A “pre-nup” was in reference to the elements of a formal agreement when creating a strong company partnership.  The subject of formal agreements was one of several topics shared by the panelists who spoke live from Malvern and via simulcast from Hershey Center for Applied Research and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.  The other hot topics included strategic alliances, acquisitions and commercialization.

So what are the ingredients of a good deal? According to Joe Kaufmann, of Kensey Nash Corporation, they look something like this: Clearly define what you’re giving up, clearly define the milestones (R&D, financial and commercialization), and what happens if things go bad? Since it’s not just the agreement, it’s the partner that matters too, Nash also rattled off the keys to finding a good company partner: The right company, the right focus and the right relationship, were all at the top of his list.

Adding to the partnership discussion, Armando Anido of Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. encouraged the audience of entrepreneurs and company executives to have multiple potential partners at the table to get the best deal. In his view, there are so many competing priorities within a big company that it’s not hard to envision a deal falling apart due to internal corporate changes. With mulitple players at the table, companies don’t find themselves dependent on, and therefore at the mercy of, one partner’s terms.

Another major factor in closing a deal, according to Anido, is finding internal champions. He cited his experience having to identify several champions inside Pfizer, courted by his company execs and his board. “And even then,” says Anido, “be prepared to spend a lot of late nights talking them back from the edge to keep them in the deal.”  Finding an internal champion is easier said then done, according to David Pompliano, who brought his entrepreneurial experience as CEO of BioLeap, Inc. As a start-up company CEO, he points out that it’s hard to  find people willing to be internal corporate champions because they’re still skeptical on the science. The initial challenge, before internal champions, is simply trying to be heard within a company. Even after you get a foot in the door, Pompliano suggests companies get ready for “horse trading.”  That’s what it takes for a young company to develop a partnership. “You give away ownership in molecules to get validation,” says Pompliano.

Despite the road blocks, all three panelists agreed there are plenty of opportunities for small companies to grab the attention of a larger corporation. “The big guys are not going to be able to handle all the acquisitions,” comments Anido. When the opportunity does land on your doorstep, Pompliano reminds start-ups, “it’s not just about being cheaper, big companies are looking outside for new innovation.”

One cautionary word from the CEO’s was on the sales front. “Make the sales and marketing decisions before the trials, you can’t wait until FDA approval,” shares Anido. Companies need the trial data, marketing claims, and advantages to move the product from approval to actually getting used.  He stressed the need to talk to potential customers over and over again because customers say something different every time they’re asked a question. “FDA approval is not the end game.”

Learning to prepare and deal with failure is as important as handling success. In the event an existing partnership, product development effort or licensing  deal does go south, Kaufmann has these solemn words of advice for company owners, “Know when to run, take your beating and move on.” In short, know when to pull the plug.


Posted March 17th, 2010 by admin

Listening to the stars of Web 2.0 over the course of four days in Austin, it’s tough to narrow the list of thought-provoking points, however, here are few ideas and resources shared by panelists and speakers from a broad spectrum of industries (not in any specific order):

1. The Gen Y demographic (born 1977 - 1997) is the first generation to grow up with entrepreneurial role models (instead of corporate). More resources at colleges and universities to support entrepreneurship than ever before.  Donn Fenn, author UpStarts!

2. Every layer you put between you and your audience, are all the more ways the relationship will get screwed up. Gary Hustwit, Objectified documentary Producer 

3. Google grants. In kind advertising for non-profits. Non Profit Marketing Panel

4. Just because something is public, doesn’t mean we want to publicize it.   Danah Boyd, Microsoft Research

5.  Develop your interaction and feedback channel first, then layer content on top. This is the new publishing model. Paul Ford, Harper’s Magazine Editor

6. DIY U: EduPunks, EduPreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Ed. Author Anya Kamenetz

7. Whatever you start out thinking your business model is, your basic assumptions are wrong. Evan Williams, CEO, Twitter

8. Content is the cost of entry. Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia/Wine Library 

9. Students are invested in the ties (community) not the technology. Donn Fenn, author UpStarts!

10. What are you doing to drive or incent your power users - Contests? Advance information? Access to unique content? Naveed Anwar, Senior Director, Developers Network, PayPal

11. It’s not about hiding, it’s about maintaining space to open up.(as it relates to posting on Facebook and other social media.)  Danah Boyd, Microsoft Research

12. Be passionate about a “thank you” economy. You can’t scale caring. Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia/Wine Library 

13. Stickybits.comThe hit of the event schwag bag!

14.  Make it easy for users to participate and get content. Don’t let data gathering (filling our lengthy forms) get in the way. Naveed Anwar, Senior Director, Developers Network, PayPal

15. Everyone wants to be a 19 year old kid and close too fast. Take time to build a business relationship. Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerMedia/Wine Library