Dr. Kozin believes the downside to engaging with an academic incubator is limited and taking advantage of these resources will provide expert knowledge not commonly taught at traditional medical schools or in otolaryngology residency programs. As far as whether the innovator still owns the invention when the work is done through these offices, arrangements vary from institution to institution.
Explore This IssueMay 2023
“Most academic incubators are supported through either an affiliated hospital or university,” Dr. Kozin said. “Those using academic incubators either within the university setting or externally should clarify intellectual property ownership at the onset of the relationship.”
What Makes a Good Incubator?
While there can be many advantages to working with a business incubator, there are certain factors that make some incubators rise above the others: primarily, funding and experience.
“Stanford and Silicon Valley, for example, have access to billions, if not trillions, of dollars in capital that most universities can’t match,” said Dr. Das. “And they have a track record of producing highly profitable inventions and commercializing them.”
In addition to having enough funding to truly back your ideas, the best incubators have also been competing in their space for many years and have confronted problems, learned from their mistakes, and developed valuable contacts. They learn from their successes and failures what it takes to make money and put inventors on a good path from.
High-quality incubators also have multiple ancillaries. Y Combinator, Mountain View, Calif. (www.ycombinator.com) offer a blueprint for how to form a startup and gives seed money for early-stage inventions. It also holds an annual Demo Day to show startups to potential investors and hosts a startup school.
“They give you documents on how to raise money from friends and family, how to write a basic LLC, and how to make an invention agreement formatted so that you don’t ever, for example, split a company 50/50 with your partner, but rather really figure out what each partner is contributing to be sure everyone thinks it’s fair and there’s zero resentment later,” says Dr. Das.
Poor quality incubators, on the other hand, may not have enough of the right staff members to be truly helpful. For example, they may have one attorney who’s great at patent work, but they may not have a marketing expert who can help an inventor get their idea noticed. “Finding what works can take a lot of time,” Dr. Das said. “There are only a handful of academic centers in this country that produce inventions regularly and get them commercialized.”