The Next Wave: Out of the Lab and Onto the Market By Alison Tanner, Entrepreneur-in-Residence Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research


Our federal government has been funding non-defense research for about fifty years, starting with space programs in the 1960s, then energy programs in the 1970s, then health-oriented programs in the 1980s. Federal research and development funding today totals about $140 billion annually.

With the U.S. Congress’ passage of the Bayh-Dole Act and implementation of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs in the early 1980s, the federal government began to promote not only conducting research but also turning it into commercial products like drugs, software, and “green” technology solutions. 

The Bayh-Dole Act allows non-government entities such as universities to profit from inventions created using federal funding and then brought to market. The SBIR and STTR programs offer grants to small businesses conducting research and development that may result in products with commercial potential. The Obama Administration further raised the bar for commercialization in its November 2011 memorandum,“Accelerating Technology Transfer and Commercialization of Federal Research in Support of High-Growth Businesses."

Why? Because research that becomes a commercial product not only helps society by improving and saving lives, but also creates high-paying jobs and incremental tax revenues that support education, the arts, and other important programs.

In fact, 56% of basic research, the key ingredient for technology commercialization, happens in universities.  When universities license research to local startups known as “spinouts,” that is good not only for federal tax coffers and for society, but also for local and state economies.  

According to Yale University, a regional economy can experience growth when spinout ventures decide to remain in the area. Yale’s local spinouts provided more than one thousand jobs for highly skilled workers in the year 2000 alone. The ventures generated many joint-research projects undertaken by these companies and the university. The companies have made New Haven both a bioscience center for the state and a magnet for the relocation of existing companies to the city and region.

Florida is investing in “home growing” spinouts, too. The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research Institute) was created in 2007 to support Florida’s research universities and institutions and the creation of new spinouts by providing services and administering a variety of seed funding programs. To date, the Institute has funded 19 companies that have gone on to raise significant additional private investment capital, achieve critical development milestones, and launch new products into the marketplace.

The Institute is currently working with approximately 100 current or potential spinouts in areas such as disease detection and treatment, and advanced, environmentally friendly materials, and energy sources. Imagine the possible financial and societal impact of just a few of them:

  • Diabetics no longer losing their limbs to vascular disease

  • Non-biodegradable plastic no longer filling our landfills and oceans

  • Less expensive, safer, lighter-weight automobile bodies on the market

  • Cancer screening available to underserved women worldwide anywhere, anytime.

Having great science is just the beginning. Companies also need great professional teams and funding to succeed. You can help.  Become aspinout CEO mentor or investor and support new company growth and success. For more information, contact Jane Teague, COO, at (561) 368-8889, x1500.