D2P’s Biondi On Getting UW-Madison More for its ($1.2B) R&D Money
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milestones and a heavy focus on moving the project along not just scientifically, but commercially. …[A milestone example] might be validation of their value proposition through customer interviews. It might be validation of their growth proposition through customer interviews. A technical milestone might be the next experiment that reduces risk, [ensuring that it is] accomplished and checked off that it was positive.
That’s the accelerated pool. The projects that don’t get funded but make the first cut, so to speak, will be put in another pool. That pool will get similar types of attention, but just not at the same level. We’ll look at team formation in that group. We’ll begin to help that group begin to develop their commercial strategy, their business plan, their business model, their connection to the market, value proposition validation, things like that. Graduation out of that pool will be upon achievement of some significant funding, whether that’s the Igniter…money, or some other money, or a significant grant. That would put them into the accelerator pool, where we can move them through that process. Graduation from the accelerated pool would be upon licensing or incorporation and equity funding on the other side of incorporation.
X: If students and faculty will be vetting their ideas with outside mentors and potential customers before incorporating and/or licensing, should they be concerned about how well-protected their intellectual property will be during this program?
JB: [People from outside the university] will be required to sign confidentiality [agreements] with any project that they mentor. As university employees dealing with university people, we are under confidentiality in that relationship.
I think D2P will be a positive in that regard, in that we can help coach these projects as to what they need to do in order to protect their confidentiality and IP.
X: What are D2P’s metrics?
JB: I think we’ve got two measures of success. One is…how much commercialization do we achieve? The baseline metrics are out of that $1.2 billion in research money that comes into the university here. That creates about 350 invention disclosures to WARF, which then creates about 200 patent applications, which then creates about 50 licensing deals a year, which also creates about three to five spinout companies per year. We would like that 50 licensing deals to be a higher number and the three to five spinout companies to be a higher number. That’s what we’re focused on over time.
X: Do you have a specific target in mind for the number of licensing deals and spinouts?
JB: No, not yet. Clearly we need to develop that and develop what we think our metrics should be based on the quality of what we find here on campus and our ability to move it through [to commercialization]. Longer term, the goal is to make D2P sustainable, i.e. to make this Igniter fund self-sustaining. It would look like either a more permanent arrangement with the state on some level of funding for this, as well as the possibility of some of these alumni funds that we might be able to connect with D2P to fund both the internal process and the equity funding on the outside.