FastTrack paves the way for physical science and engineering startups


A program launched this summer by the Center for Technology Licensing (CTL) is expected to give Cornell technology-based companies in engineering and physical sciences a smoother path from the lab to the market.

The FastTrack Starter Licensing Program takes an innovative approach to assist Cornell Affiliate entrepreneurs by providing a fast and transparent licensing process, with a ‘ready to go’ licensing agreement, limited need for negotiation, and options based. on the type of business plan being developed.

“The transfer of technology to industry is definitely an aspiration for any university, and it’s something that interested me a lot when I entered this office,” said Emmanuel Giannelis, vice-rector for research and vice-president for technology transfer, intellectual property and research policy. . Giannelis, Walter R. Read professor of engineering in materials science and engineering, began his administrative role in July 2017.

Alice Li, executive director of Cornell’s Center for Technology Licensing, and Emmanuel Giannelis, vice president for research and vice president for technology transfer, intellectual property and research policy, are pictured in the office of Giannelis’s Day Hall .

“What we heard from professors, potential business partners and others,” said Giannelis, “was that there was a fairly lengthy process for someone wanting to commercialize our technologies. The main goal of FastTrack is to make this process more efficient. With any new business, time is running out.

“We want to support startups and ensure that our technologies are used by society,” said Alice Li, Executive Director of CTL. “It is increasingly becoming a priority for us to commercialize technologies through business creation and support economic development at local, regional and national levels. Reducing the time and expense of the licensing process for our entrepreneurs allows them to focus their valuable start-up resources more on technology and business development.

The main features of the FastTrack program, launched in July, are:

  • A pre-established agreement with mutually advantageous, balanced and fixed conditions;
  • Minimal negotiation, focused primarily on the area of ​​use of the licensed technology and on a timeline to achieve milestones on the road to commercialization;
  • A menu of options designed to suit different types of businesses, from those focused on venture capital financing to those focused on strategic partnerships, to the efforts initiated.
  • Minimized start-up costs to help startups reserve cash for development.

The program provides a streamlined and transparent route to commercialization for budding entrepreneurs in engineering and the physical sciences, disciplines which, due to less stringent regulations, typically have a more direct route to commercialization than medical devices, therapeutics, agriculture and other areas.

Program participants must have a viable team of founders and advisors committed to the idea, a market value proposition, and a plan to achieve key milestones in development.

If a startup’s technology is not yet in the licensing stage, the company can enroll for a six-month term (with an option to extend a six-month extension, at CTL’s discretion), during from which it will have to work with regional incubators. , business accelerators and / or other training programs to refine your business concept.

“I think the main benefit of the program is for students, post-docs, faculty and alumni who are pursuing their first entrepreneurial experience,” said David Erickson, professor of mechanical engineering at Sibley College and associate dean for research at the College of Engineering. “License conditions are often opaque and difficult to analyze; it makes them much more open and accessible.

Greg Galvin, MS ’82, Ph.D. ’84, MBA ’93, serial entrepreneur and founder of a Cornell technology-based company (Kionix), agreed.

“Having a predefined template allows the entrepreneur to know the general terms of the agreement up front,” he said, “and takes away a lot of the negotiation, which is part of the reason why it’s faster. You also take the guesswork out of it, so the entrepreneur can look at the terms and say, “Damn, I can’t sign up for this” or, hopefully, “Yeah, that works for me. “

Recalling his own experience with licensing his Cornell-based technology over 25 years ago, Galvin said the main benefit is clear: “It’s in the title itself – fast. “

CTL consulted with Galvin while developing the FastTrack program. “Historically, negotiating licenses with Cornell has not been a quick process. For a new start-up, time is usually the enemy because you are spending your money when you are not producing anything.

“So the sooner you can get licensing deals and things of that nature,” he said, “the better for the business.”

Giannelis is confident that FastTrack is presenting entrepreneurs with Cornell’s “best deal” in a deal that benefits all parties.

In addition to FastTrack, CTL is also preparing an online getting started guide – a how-to guide for budding entrepreneurs – which Li says will be released this fall.

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