Developing Relationships within the SBIR Program Part 3 – Working with Universities

By EARLE HAGER published SEPTEMBER 19, 2018

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We note universities are eager to help with their own networks and ecosystems. For them, there is an opportunity to advance multiple technologies in a single area. The startup will gain access to university professors and graduate students and potentially work with university startups seeking business support. Finally, it is an opportunity to pitch the company with the statement, “Hi, I am a startup working with a USC / CalTech technology …”

If you want to see a list of all University of California technologies available for licensing, look here.

The University of California is the largest patent application program in the world.  All UC techs in all the campuses are patented by the Regents.


In reviewing university technologies, the startup should remember ideas are important, but funding takes them forward.  Within the university system, not everyone in this process is interested in making money.  Many professors are content with running their labs and hiring grad students.

Let’s start with the basics.  Everything is about Process.


To start the process review, we need to understand the timeline for development of new ideas and technologies within the university.  How fast do ideas move in a university? How can you make the timeline shorter? How can you find the new ideas?

This process involves lawyers.  The legal section is key – the patent must be defined to be wide enough to block competitors and not overstep other patents.


The first part of the process is the research timeline.  Research is funded based on the cost of graduate students and the university overhead rates.  New projects are started and managed out of the professor’s lab.  To begin, the professor starts with an idea.  This idea is converted into a grant application, a process which can take a minimum of three months.

A successful grant will arrive 3-9 months later, assuming there are not edits or updates.  The professor has probably designed the research program to last for one year. Once completed, the professor will contact the tech transfer office to develop a disclosure.

The development of the patent disclosure and application are key to all the next steps.  The development of the university disclosure will take two months, then the lawyers will review. At this point, the university will file for the provisional or regular patent application.  Upon publication, the university is ready for the business development process. Now, you get to read about the patent here.

So, you must shorten the cycle.  Remember, it’s all about relationships.  Learn to work with the professors during the research process, be part of the evaluation for market entry, and focus on new ideas, new technologies.

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