From innovation to commercialisation: How to present your research to industry
The point of scientific research is to innovate and to benefit humanity. Commercialisation of innovative ideas and technologies is an often-necessary step to having real impact, but can be a daunting prospect, especially as an academic researcher.
Your value proposition
In research, it’s easy to forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. When it comes to commercially exploiting your work, you need to think about how it brings value to potential customers. This is called a value proposition, and essentially describes what the research does for a customer.
Think of this a little more globally than the science behind it – for example, if your innovation is a technological advancement on current approaches, is it also cheaper? Can it be deployed more quickly? Is it more widely applicable? These are things commercial partners will want to know, so make sure to focus on these aspects when presenting your research.
Pains and gains
Your value proposition should address your customers’ so-called pains. Let’s consider smartphones, like the iPhone, as an example. Before these, people would have used their mobile phone for phone calls and texts, a camera for good quality photos, perhaps a CD or mp3 player for music on the go, and a computer or laptop for internet browsing. The ‘pain’ for the user would be that they’d need access to each of these devices to carry out those tasks. The smartphone’s value proposition addressed this, as it could do all of these things, in a pocketable format.
Your innovation may also provide a gain, which is a feature that isn’t necessarily related to a pain. In the smartphone example, this may be that it might have a sleek design, and is therefore desirable, or that the user experience is seamless – something that wasn’t necessarily a problem with the previous solution, but is appealing to the user. These are key points that a commercial entity will be most interested in, so be sure to also focus on them.
The elevator pitch
This is a very commonly used phrase, referring to a one-minute summary of your technology. An elevator pitch is useful to set the scene and to briefly communicate the benefit your technology brings.
The mistake most people make here is to concentrate on the features of the technology itself, whereas a commercial partner will more likely be interested in what it does over how it does it. Therefore, when presenting to commercial partners, prepare a brief elevator pitch by putting the emphasis on how a potential market’s pains are alleviated, and what additional gains are offered, without delving into how your technology achieves this in too much detail. They will assume that the technology you are presenting works, so won’t need to be convinced of that. What they will want to know is who it’s for, and what it does. If further detail is required, you will be asked for it.
Presenting your innovation to industry can be challenging, but by focussing on what your technology does for the market you are addressing, you are ensuring that your commercial counterpart will remain engaged.
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