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April 2019

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

University Tech Transfer and Commercialization: Incentive, Infrastructure, and Impact

By Vatsal Agarwal

On March 9, I had the privilege of representing the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship and attending the University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Workshop at the College at Brockport (SUNY), which is a part of the SUNY Conversations in the Disciplines Workshop series. The series is designed to “contribute to the development and dissemination of knowledge on transferring and commercializing university technology to foster innovation and entrepreneurship” in college campuses in the Upstate New York region.

Martin K. Casstevens of University at Buffalo and Vatsal Agarwal during the conference at SUNY Brockport.

For those unfamiliar with the term technology commercialization, the University of California’s Office of the President defines it as “the process of transitioning technologies from the research lab to the marketplace”. This is a highly complex process which ensures that the results of research are made available for public use and benefit. Historically, the University of Rochester has been among the top 10 universities in the US for licensing royalty revenues through the virtue of technology commercialization with patents spanning diverse fields from healthcare and medicine to proprietary software solutions.

Throughout the day, I attended 4 different training and discussion sessions, along with remarkably insightful opening and mid-session keynote addresses. I would like to highlight and share the key takeaways from the day, arranged in chronological order of the different sessions.

Opening Keynote: SUNY Innovation Policies and Initiatives

[Address led by Heidi Macpherson, President of SUNY Brockport and Matthew Mroz, Director of Enterprise Technology Transfer at SUNY-RF]

  • Analyzing the significance of universities and partner companies in the development of the regional, as well as national, economy is key. This can be done through a discussion of university researchers and alumni, focusing on experiences and major breakthroughs.
  • Keep an eye on innovation and entrepreneurship through programs such as The Research Foundation, Industry Engagement Bootcamp, Technology Accelerator Fund, and changes in Patent Invention Policies.

Session 1: Best Practices in University Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer

[Discussion led by a panel of 5 professionals working with technology transfer offices/initiatives]

  • Fruits from the partnership of business schools and engineering/STEM schools – in funding and research capacity and intentions – are tied to the analysis of commercial viability of academic research.
  • Ideas to consider:
    • Student Incubators – why every innovative university needs one
    • Principles of ownership of research and inventions contributed by students, industry partners and faculty
    • Roles of university faculty and researchers in student ventures and innovations
    • Management of conflicts-of-interest and risks for different parties involved

Session 2: NSF I-Corps Nodes on University Technology Commercialization

[Address led by I-Corps Nodes representatives from University of Rochester and Cornell University]

  • Why do startups fail? No market need for the product (biggest and arguably, the most important reason), shortage of cash, and/or not involving the right team.
  • Regional NSF I-Corps Nodes and Short Courses (resource for customer discovery)
  • PLUG: Go to or email Matthew Spielmann to learn more about UR’s I-Corps offerings!

Participants of the University Technology Transfer and Commercialization Workshop at SUNY Brockport.

Mid-Session Keynote: Unleashing Technology Transfer with Real Options

[Address led by Dr. Philip Phan, Alonzo and Virginia Decker Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University]

  • The most important question: What is the true price/intrinsic value of a patent?
  • Problems in price analysis include: market value, heavy litigation, re-issuance, subjective estimates, future cash flows, price elasticity, and time heterogeneity of patent value.
  • There is a need for a new continuous price discovery process and pioneering work on the Real Options Patent Management Strategy.

Session 3: Founding Dos and Don’ts

[Discussion led by a panel of 5 successful founders and entrepreneurs]

  • Enable the entrepreneurial mindset and culture.
  • Develop a plan for a venture project.
  • Provide training for starting/growing a startup.
  • Emphasize importance of mentors/coaches, as well as ways to find financial support/funding.
  • Share how-tos for getting a leg up through access to resources (such as an incubator or accelerator).

Session 4: Entrepreneurial Development Activity Workshop

[Activity-based workshop led by Dr. Amir Bahman Radnejad, Associate Professor of Management, SUNY Brockport]

  • Learn how to recognize when human intuition and biases are creating problems for entrepreneurs.
  • Participate in problem-solving activities that include guidance on how to think for successful innovation.

Through the workshop, I had a chance to learn more about various topics related to promotion and commercialization of innovation and entrepreneurship. Even more importantly, I also had a chance to meet and talk to industry professionals and founders – all of whom I found to be dedicated thinkers and ardent researchers with innovative ideas on how to change the world for the better.

I am ever grateful to the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship for the opportunity to attend this workshop, not only through financial support but also helpful guidance.

Vatsal Agarwal ’21 is a Financial Economics and Computer Science major at the University of Rochester. He is currently interning as a Court Efficiency Analyst at the New York State Unified Court System. He is also a part of the Ain Team, helping promote entrepreneurship and the Ain Center on and off the UR campus. Vatsal is highly interested in a career where he can feed his interests in finance and technology simultaneously and has past experience in customer service, educational fundraising and consulting, and writing business plans.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Hult Prize Regionals 2019

By Xueying “Shelley” Chen

Hult Prize is the world’s biggest social venture competition that was established by Ahmad Ashkar. It crowd-sources ideas from MBA and college students after challenging them to solve a pressing social issue. This year the challenge was to come up with a solution to create 10,000 meaningful jobs for youth. Millions of young people are disconnected from meaningful jobs. I sat down with my teammates and we brainstormed ideas to solve youth employment problems for Indian girls who are at risk of child sex trafficking.

We competed as Boodana and we aim to combat child sex trafficking in India through job creation. In India, prostitution is legal, and 1 out of 40 girls under the age of 15 is forced into prostitution. Many girls in India become prostitutes as a means to support their families, because they lack the skills or opportunities necessary to work in other positions. Many girls in India are also sold into prostitution against their will by those closest to them, including friends, neighbors, or even their own husbands.

Team Boodana: (from left to right: Yaocheng (Sparrow) Tian ’22, Matthew Stein ’17, and Xueying “Shelley” Chen ’19. 

The worst thing that could happen to anybody is to start every day believing that every one of your tomorrows will be just like yesterday. Our plan is to ensure that, for girls in India who are suffering as a result of child prostitution, the days ahead will not be the same as those that are behind. Over 10 years, we will create a network of 100 healing centers in India that will each employ 100 girls who are at risk for becoming or are former prostitutes. At these healing centers, girls will be given paid apprenticeships to become certified yoga and meditation instructors. They will be taught by local yoga and meditation experts in India. Their compensation will vastly exceed what they could earn through prostitution, thereby providing incentive for a meaningful work alternative. We will also cooperate with local non-profits that are already working to rescue girls from brothels in India. Boodana’s healing centers will provide a safe space for these girls to heal – physically and mentally – while providing them with meaningful jobs.

India is the world’s top destination for yoga tourism, and Boodana will capitalize on the growing wellness travel market in India. Based on a preliminary financial analysis, we will be able to price our retreats competitively compared to India’s most popular yoga retreats and still generate significant profits in only 2-3 years. In addition, we will have a second stream of revenue by partnering with Universities in the US and other developed nations to provide classes and cultural exchange programs for students. Students studying international relations, Asian, or gender studies can travel to Boodana retreats to take classes from local Indian professors for course credit. By taking these classes in India, students will be able to immerse themselves in Indian culture and tradition, and also learn about gender equality challenges firsthand from the girls who have experienced them. Students will pay tuition for the classes, and discounted tuition can be offered to students who help teach/tutor the young women employees at Boodana (eg. tutoring in English speaking or writing, personal finance, or entrepreneurship).

During the weekend of March 8, we pitched our idea to a panel of judges at the Toronto Regionals. Even though we did not advance to the final, we felt very lucky to be a part of social movement that has the potential to create real impact for the world’s most vulnerable community. We will take the lessons from this competition to advance our future entrepreneurial endeavors.

Xueying “Shelley” Chen ’19 is a researcher, activist and writer of social entrepreneurship and a believer of impact-driven businesses. She thinks business is a vehicle to deliver profitable, sustainable and socially responsible returns. Shelley puts human-centered impact in the core of her daily business practice. Additionally, Shelley is an active member of the UR entrepreneurial community and she is a member of the Ain Team – a group of elite student ambassadors chosen to promote and increase the visibility of the department and the MS in TEAM program.