Academic Entrepreneurship

Academic Entrepreneurship

Translating Discoveries to the Marketplace

The Johns Hopkins University series on Entrepreneurship

Edited by Phillip H. Phan

Academic entrepreneurship is a multifactorial and multidimensional phenomenon. This book presents research featuring aspects of academic entrepreneurship at the regional, institutional, and organizational levels of analysis. Phillip H. Phan and the authors illustrate that the more interesting aspects of this subject are in the ‘tails of the distribution,’ where counter-intuitive findings from the data call simple theories into question and inspire a vigorous discussion of alternatives.

Research in translating discoveries to the marketplace

Phillip H. Phan

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, management and universities


Technology commercialization has drawn widespread attention from academia and policymaking, leading to an increasing volume of published papers. However, not all topics in this field have received equal attention; for example, the translation phase of the commercialization process is not well understood. Translation is where the scientific concept or paradigm has to be converted into a working application before it can be considered a funding opportunity for commercialization. This stage of the process, between bench discovery and proof of concept, represents the most financially and organizational challenging phase of the commercialization cycle. Funding is limited because translation is considered not novel enough for discovery-based funding. But because the idea is still in its early stages the distance to a working prototype may be too great for commercial or venture funding. Further, what is ultimately acceptable to the marketplace is generally unknown in this process. In life science, the translation process begins with target validation; in software, it is the alpha version; in materials science, the physical proof of the theoretical construct; and so on. This development cycle is typified by trial and error learning; in which innovators can look for clues in analogous solutions to guess at the appropriate form factor, design or composition. This ‘best guess’ is tested iteratively by exposing the ideas to external stakeholders (consumers, regulators, suppliers and so on) before formal product development can commence.

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