September 28, 2009

Monetizing R&D intangibles

In my job, I work quite a lot together with medical doctors and professors carrying out research projects where some form of commercialization potential has been identified. Often it is my role to come in as a business developer and by an initial intellectual asset due diligence process distinguish which of the R&D building blocks that are truly value creating and how these potential values may be extracted. As a part of this, I get to see quite a number of grant applications and discuss how these can be re-designed for effective communication of a project's value with a basis in their intellectual assets.

Tacit valuation model for early stage research

I think that it is interesting to think that a grant reviewer will (although probably to a large extent tacitly and indirectly) value the underlying potential of research activities and new technologies, and eventually determine whether the sought amount is a feasible investment. Certainly there are parallels with such an implicit valuation model to patent valuation where a challenge is to identify suitable metrics for estimation of the value of a technology.

So what are some of the soft metrics that could determine the value of a technology for a grant reviewer?

Value of scientific excellence

Most grant reviewers probably would like to say that their sharp eye spotted the Nobel Prize candidate long before its nomination and that it was that particular early-stage grant that enabled the discovery. However, in reality scientific brilliance may be difficult to determine. Especially so, if the grant reviewer's expertise happens to be in another area than what the application is describing. One way to "outsource" this determination is to rely on citations in scientific journals. A citation count corresponds to the number of times other research papers reference the results of a publication-of-interest. But it is not self-evident how to value citations solely based on the number. How would you distinguish between?

  • A higher number of citations due to a rather basic discovery
  • A low number of citations in highly respected journals
  • A high number of citations but none within the same research area
  • A low number of citations

Value of personal brands

Another aspect that is often quoted as high perceived value in the eyes of grant reviewers is to have successful competences associated to a project. Metrics to measure the significance of human capital include;

  • Curriculum Vitae (e.g. previous positions and experience)
  • Academic titles
  • Citations (e.g. H-index, citations per year, total citations)
  • Publications (e.g. how many, in which journals, co-authors)
  • Previously raised financing through grants and commercialization

Value of association to other trademarks

Association of research projects with other entities and initiatives can be interpreted as different identities and perceived values for projects. Here are some examples;

  • Market closeness: Letter of intent from a collaborating company
  • National/regional importance: Proof of participation in research platform (e.g. IMI, FP7)
  • Societal value: Grant approval letter from major foundation (e.g. B&M Gates Foundation)

Value of legal clarity and technology transferability

For grant reviewers that are interested in seeing research results being utilized and commercialized, value metrics may include;

  • Patents (e.g. number of patents, coverage, assignee/inventorship)
  • Agreements (e.g. consortia agreements - ensuring that rights to results are governed)
  • Freedom-to-operate evaluations

However, there are also newer metrics in the knowledge economy such as quotes on how many registered unique users one's database has. Other interesting metrics could for example be generated in open innovation projects such as Folding@Home (where a complex biological computation is distributed on 250 thousand CPUs of personal computers) where the project could claim to have access to 25 000 CPUs (assuming 10% usage of each CPU).

Will we see the numbers of "Digg it"-clicks, twitter hits and LinkedIn connections in future grant applications as metrics for societal interest and networks?

Tobias Thornblad

(Contact via Twitter)

September 20, 2009

Intangitopia Picks - Google books

Intangitopia has previously written about the Google Books project and its effort to digitize all books available. The full scale of the project is probably not seen yet, especially since Google still is in legal dispute around the digitization efforts. To me it seems quite inevitable that they will be able to digitize most books, at some point, the relevant question will then be who can get access to the information and on what terms.

The Economist has interviewed Paul Courant, librarian at University of Michigan, on the subject and the impact for research to have, at least, all orphan books digitized and searchable. One of the points he makes is that the book project gives different universities access to each other's libraries digitally, for the benefit of research. But as he also points out, Google is not doing this only to be nice, but rather to get more eyeballs to browse their webpages and adverts.

They have recently given On Demand Books access to their digital library to print books for customers. This posts interesting questions to how other actors in the digital/physical distribution of books should react. Even though the currest deal with On Demand Books only covers orphan book, books without rights holders, it is most likely that it at some point also will cover books with rights holders.

September 8, 2009

The role of the university - in the Future of Early Innovation

Ulf Petrusson opened up the second day of the Early Innovation and Knowledge City/Region track at CIP FORUM, on Tuesday afternoon. The theme of the talk was about how innovation and openness can be safeguarded in research platforms. The full panel included;

Arundeep Pradhan, President, AUTM and Oregon Health Sciences

Boo Edgar, Chairman, MedCoast Scandinavia and Director, GIBBS

Karen Hersey, fm Senior Counsel IP MIT and Professor, Franklin Pierce Law Center

Michael Cleare, Director TTO, University of Pennsylvania

Philippe Cupers, PhD, IMI European Union

Ulf Petrusson, Professor of Law, University of Gothenburg and Director, CIP

IP as discussion topic is often focused on the commercialization aspect on the underlying technologies but this was a discussion focused on the ability to use instruments such as IPRs, policies and technology transfer functions to stimulate research and knowledge dissemination. Universities face major challenges as increasing complexities of new technologies demands more extensive developments before research results can be readily utilized and provide societal benefits. In order for universities to not being risked to be blocked further down the line of the collaboration, there is an increasing need for intellectual asset management capabilities (e.g. for managing research processes, research collaborations, contract research, research funding, development processes, project selection, etc.).

A model was also presented where the role of the university was tracked over time from being a pure educational platform based on solely contributing to the public domain. Over time, this has also started to incorporate an increasing licensing and collaboration model where its responsibility has also started to include supporting the industry and society by transferring its research. As the importance of providing societal value has increased the university has also engaged in more entrepreneurial activity through a venture creation model. As all of the functions above have been incorporated, a new role for the university has emerged - the Intellectual Asset (IA) platform university.

Tobias Thornblad

(Contact via Twitter)

Third day at CIP Forum 2009

The third day of the CIP Forum 2009 in Gothenburg, Sweden, has got halfway through the morning session and Ruud Peters of CEO of Philips intellectual Property and Standards has just finished his keynote speech on "Communicating value - Putting IP in the boardroom once and for all".

Ruud Peters.

The audience.

Peters talked about the challenges in how to put IP in to the boardroom and some of the advises he gave were: "Create IP Solutions and not only IP Problems", "Create a customer focused IP organization", "Responsiveness IP organization needs to match the dynamics in the business", "Run your IP organization as a business in itself".

But from his point of view, the most important point advice is to create a workforce that has a mix of three important knowledge insights;
  • basic IP knowledge
  • market/business insights
  • economic/financial knowledge.
"CIP is doing a great job through their educational programs in meeting those needs."

Now on stage "The Jedi Counsel of IP" as introduced by Ralph Eckardt. The talk is about "Why industry needs IP but fails to realize it".

The panel, Consisting of Ruud Peters (CEO, Philips Intellectual Property and Standards), Béatrix de Russe (Executive Vice President, Thomson), Ian Hardvey (Chairman, Intellectual property Institute), Kasim Alfalahi (Vice President, Ericsson), Mark Blaxill (Managing Director, 3LP Advisors) and standing, Ralph Eckardt (Managing Director, 3LP Advisors).

Johan Örneblad
Follow me on Twitter.

Locations of visitors to this page