SEMIP Innovation Showcase 2013
Last week I attended the SEMIP Innovation Showcase at the Hemisphere Conference Centre. This annual showcase is for local technology researchers and developers.
Kees Eijkel led off with a description of how Kennispark in The Netherlands had fostered cooperation between entrepreneurs, financiers, researchers and industry. It is a 30 year process so far and has shown considerable gains. The key in part to this success is based on a simple approach to evaluating opportunities:
- focus on the business case
- decided on a case by case basis and not on a technology focus
- ideas can come from anywhere, so foster widespread collaboration
- deal fairly with IP
- create an environment to leverage talent, investment dollars and facilities
- measure success by how many jobs are created
He also had some advice for us in Australia where we are just starting on this journey:
- Public Research Organisations are ready to collaborate, but inexperienced at it
- Industry recognises the need
- Government is looking for good ideas
- We have the STC which could act as the primary cluster to build around
And if you haven’t already checked it out, the Australian Synchrotron is an amazing piece of technology. They have regular open days so take advantage of one. I did.
The Valley of Death
Next we had a session looking at the funding problem known as “The Valley of Death“. This is the gap in between publicly funded basic research or a private invention stage of technology development, and the successful launch of a market ready product.
We had input from Kim Walker of Capstone Partners, Peter Lewis of Hydrix and Bill Matthews of Dulux who shared their experiences in addressing this fundamental problem. The core issues are:
- inventors and startups have minimal investment funds
- public funds usually only cover basic research
- venture capital funds and marketers want a market ready product before they will provide funding
What this usually means is that up to 90% of the funding isn’t available until the product is ready for market. This is the funding needed to get it to that point. It is a classic “Catch 22”.
So how do you fill the void?
The best options presented were:
- a license or trade sale to the natural owner of the technology is the best option
- pre-sale agreement from a party who wants to sell the product when it is ready
- ensure the voice of the market is clear and compelling from the beginning
Researchers In Business
We then had two case studies showing successful examples of the CSIRO Researcher In Business program. This is where a researcher directly focuses on a specific industry challenge with a specific client, often operating within their business. The two examples were:
- A.W.Bell casting process development
- Textor fabric development
Michael Egin of the CSIRO then rounded out the session with his view of how the program works.
Chief Scientist of Australia
The keynote address was given by Prof. Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist of Australia.
He took us through a history of Australia and our slow progress toward scientific and entrepreneurial self-sufficiency. His primary point was that unless we chose to collaborate and cooperate and move beyond the current chasm between academic researchers and private industry operators then we would not be able to progress toward a truly modern economy.
His point closely mirrored the observations by Kees Eijkel that it is only by fostering this collaboration that we can create the jobs and opportunities needed for a vibrant economy.
I’m already convinced. The trick is how to get the ball rolling. I have already had one excellent insight into the problem and one of the main roadblocks. I share that when I’ve got my thoughts fully together.
SEMIP stands for the South East Melbourne Innovation Precinct.
Also check out the 2012 SEMIP Inovation Showcase.
Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2013 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd