Bloomsbury Press, November
The typical technology transfer approach practiced by Universities involves licensing of the technology to a company. These problems are magnified if the University research involves a completely new technology field and a new market.
Biodegradable plastics from agricultural feedstocks falls into the new technology, new market category and is the subject of this paper.
At MBI we practiced a pro-active technology commercialization model that ultimately results in effective technology transfer of research to a start-up or joint venture company through MBI and its business subsidiary Grand River Technologies GRT.
Ofcourse, the technology, has to meet certain specified business and market criteria before a business can be established. I have been involved in the development and commercialization of four bio-based product technologies using the above model see Figures 1 and 4.
Poly lactic acid biodegradable plastics: Engineering, scale-up, and applications research for poly lactic acid biodegradable plastics technology were conducted at the university and at the Institute with collaboration and support of Cargill Inc.
Cargill is currently commercializing this technology world-wide, and recently announced the creation of a joint venture company with Dow Chemical, Cargill-Dow LLC for the same.
Modified Starch Biodegradable Thermoplastics: Pilot scale operations are in place to sample customers with thousands pound quantities of resin. The technology was developed by graduate students at the University and in-licensed through MBI to BioPlastics four patents.
The adhesives are designed to be water resistant, have good adhesive bond strength, high application speed and machine stability. They are targeted to be non-interfering in recycling operations, and biodegradable in appropriate infrastructures. The other three technologies represents the pro-active commercialization model, wherein the technology is being commercialized through the creation of a start-up company or joint venture with a large corporation.
In this paper, I will discuss the elements of a technology commercialization process model, and its use in commercializing Starch-based biodegradable plastics. It recognizes that the only true measure of successful technology transfer is market acceptance of the technology resulting in a profitable business.
The first step in the process is the generation of an idea or an invention by University faculty, or researchers at non-profit Institutes and National laboratories. Next, the technical feasibility and proof-of-concept of the new idea is established. At this stage intellectual property is being created, and needs to be protected by patents.
Unfortunately, many researchers and faculty seek publication of results before protecting the intellectual property and considerably diminish the value and commercialization potential of the technology.
The second step in the commercialization process involves assessment of the technology for its business and market potential. This is best done by persons with commercial or business expertise in that technology area. Typically, such expertise does not reside at the University or research institutes.
Therefore, the standard approach is to seek the opinion and support of a company working in that technology area to further develop the technology. If the company is interested, it licenses the technology if patents have been filed and evaluates the commercialization of the technology using its own criteria and measures.
If the technology is not protected, then the company is much less likely to pursue commercialization. This is because of the fear that another company can easily enter the same market after they have spent considerable money and time on developing the market and technology. As discussed in the Introductory section, companies may, also, choose not to commercialize the technology because it does not meet their market volumes or hurdle rate or business reasons.
Typically, at this stage technology commercialization efforts die. However, the technology may be perfectly viable for a start-up small business operation. Cost is the single most important issue that drives commercialization forward. Preliminary costing, especially materials costs should be calculated to establish that material costs are in the target range of the materials to be substituted.
If the potential is high, then the project moves on to step 3. The technology is refined, product specifications and process parameters developed. Preliminary engineering economics is completed. Detailed market analysis, product sampling and demonstration is conducted. A Business Plan is developed.
Out-licensing at this stage of the technology development as opposed to after step 1 Figure1 significantly enhances the success of technology commercialization and adds considerable value to the technology.
This is standard procedure at Universities, research institutes, National labs etc. As discussed in the earlier section, step 2 requires a business development infrastructure or expertise to move the technology forward towards commercialization.Start Your Waste Recycling Business Start Your Waste Recycling Business Business Manual INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE.
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