Research to Revenue: A Practical Guide to University Start-Ups

Research to Revenue: A Practical Guide to University Start-Ups

Research to Revenue: A Practical Guide to University Start-Ups

Research to Revenue: A Practical Guide to University Start-Ups


University start-ups are unique in the world of business and entrepreneurship, translating research conducted at and owned by universities into market-ready products--a complex process that requires a combination of scientific, technical, legal, business, and financial skills to be successful. Start-ups have the potential to generate revenue for universities, enhance faculty recruitment and retention, create jobs, and create investment opportunities for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Research to Revenue presents the first-ever comprehensive guide to understanding, starting, and managing university startups. By systematically describing the process of translating academic research into commercial enterprises, Don Rose and Cam Patterson give a thorough, process-oriented, and practical set of guidelines that cover not only best practices but also common--and avoidable--mistakes. They detail the key factors and components that contribute to a successful start-up, explain what makes university start-ups unique, delineate the steps of building and managing them, and describe how to foster and maintain start-ups at a university. Written for faculty and staff working on campus, tech-transfer officers, university administrators, and venture capitalists unfamiliar with university structures, Research to Revenue ensures that any reader unfamiliar with technology commercialization and entrepreneurship will understand the fundamentals of the process, including intellectual property rights, fund-raising, and business models. This work is an invaluable resource for the successful formation and well-managed operation of university start-ups.


The Greek philosopher Democritus mused, “Everything in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.” Jacques Monod, a 1965 Nobel Laureate in Medicine and Physiology, adopted Democritus’s aphorism as the title for his book Chance and Neccessity, in which he presented a contemporary view of evolution. Monod described random mutational events as “chance” chemical events and couched “necessity” as the natural selection of the ever-changing environment for new life forms arising from the mutational events.

Years after Robert Swanson and I founded Genentech, in 1976, we were asked on occasion to discuss some of the factors that contributed to the success of the company. Sometimes I would use a slightly modified title of Monod’s book as the epigraph and talking points for my discussion, namely, “Chance and necessity … and … naïveté.” Although Bob and I were comfortable in our respective fields of business and science, we were entering into a new type of commercial endeavor that soon presented unanticipated (at least to us) challenges. Hence, my title aimed to bring attention to the necessity at the time for new types of medical drugs (biologics) and the chance convergence of several technologies that presented the opportunity to take a risk with a bold new venture. In a short period of time we faced the realization that we were quite naive about the wide-ranging problems waiting for us. And perhaps if we had known of all the pitfalls beforehand, we might not have taken the risk in the first place. However, we did not admit this because our financial backers might have become uneasy, to say the least, and after all, we were young and naive. We certainly did not anticipate the first and probably the most significant and unexpected hurdle we encountered, namely, registering as lobbyists and spending two weeks in Washington convincing Congress not to prohibit genetic engineering.

I will not enumerate the numerous pitfalls Genentech encountered as we moved forward. For the most part they are clearly and systematically presented in Research to Revenue: A Practical Guide to University Start-Ups.

Academics interested in translating their research interests to a commercial enterprise are advised to use the systematic and well-documented experiences presented by Don Rose and Cam Patterson in Research to Revenue. From intellectual property, to raising funds, to business models, to naming the company, no topic imaginable for success is omitted. Of particular interest is what the . . .

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