Closing the Science Professional Business Skills Gap

Closing the Gap Between Science Training and Business Skills

Portland State's Innovation & Intellectual Property office offers graduate students and postdoctoral scholars a unique training opportunity to develop critical business skills for future careers in academic or industrial science jobs.

Women engineers

Graduates and postdocs are often unprepared for the gear shift between academia and business. The list of skills many employers find lacking among science and engineering graduates includes external business communication, market analytics, intellectual property identification, lab-to-market transition strategy, and product development team communication. Also, competitive federal grants often require investigators to include in proposals detailed information addressing the commercial applicability or industrial needs related to their science. Determining which companies may have an interest in collaborating, finding the correct personnel within those companies to engage, soliciting feedback, and framing research collaborations as business opportunities are all crucial skills for increasing award rates for both competitive grants and industry-sponsored projects.

Portland State’s Office of Innovation and Intellectual Property offers a training program to teach business/layman communication, intellectual property development and assessment, and industry engagement skills to postdocs and graduate students.

Most postdocs and graduate students will take one of three major career tracks or may move between these tracks as their careers progress: academic research professor, industrial research fellow, or entrepreneur. Whichever path you might follow, this program will help you develop the skills you need to succeed.

Fermenter

As an IIP Trainee, you will learn to:

  • Provide actionable feedback for new inventions
  • Assess research results for commercial impact potential
  • Communicate the business opportunity of an invention
  • Cultivate relationships with industry

Trainees will be given the opportunity to learn from faculty outside of their academic field, to talk with industry experts about technology, and will be trained to utilize patent, scholarly, and business databases to develop conclusions and recommendations guiding real PSU inventions and research to real impact outside the lab.

Join the IIP Training Program

Applications for the Fall 2020 Cohort will open in summer.

About the program

Who: PSU graduate students and postdocs (including researchers in postdoc-like positions). Trainees will work in teams alongside IIP innovation and licensing staff. We are limited to new six trainees per term.

Cost: Free.

Who is eligible to participate: Any PSU-affiliated graduate student or postdoc.

When: Summer/Fall Term 2020

Time Commitment: About 10hrs/wk

How to Apply: to apply for the program, please submit your CV to IIP by completing this form.

This program will support graduate student and postdoctoral scholar professional development in the following categories:

  • Grant Writing - how to write more compelling grant proposals to secure funding for your research and other scholarly activities
  • Research Communication - how to communicate with the public to show the value and impact of your research
  • Multicultural Competency - how to support students, employees, and colleagues from diverse backgrounds to ensure science can positively impact everyone
  • Project Management - how to manage people, resources, and time to balance research goals with commercialization and productization goals
  • Working with Government Agencies - how to frame research and it’s potential economic impact for federal and state agencies that engage in research funding
  • Working with Nonprofits and NGOs - how to identify impact-driven relationships with partner scientists at nonprofits and NGOs
  • Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer - how to pursue IP protection and strategically plan for commercialization of research output
  • University Structure and Function - how to find resources at a university and its affiliates and partner organizations to transition research from lab to market

In addition to developing these valuable skills, program participants will be researching the business potential of invention disclosures from PSU innovators, leading to a direct immediate impact on the research currently happening at PSU.

Electron Microscopy

About Innovation & Intellectual Property

IIP serves as the technology transfer office for PSU and receives an average of 19 Invention Disclosures a year. IIP endeavors to provide substantive feedback for each to the submitting faculty/student(s). This feedback often includes an assessment of both the patentability and market potential of the disclosed invention, and if applicable an action plan that may involve additional research and development, approaching external collaborators, protecting and licensing intellectual property, or seeking the resources to create a startup company—all outcomes designed to enable further impact with PSU research.

In some cases, the final assessment of the invention disclosure results in no further action due to the inability to create the desired commercialization impact, but new research or partnering options are often discovered which creates new opportunities for PSU research faculty to seek collaboration and funding. Program participants will learn to separate novel and valuable research results from immediate commercial opportunities and how to think critically about pivoting research results toward a more impactful path.

Through the IIP Training Program, postdocs and graduate students will learn to provide detailed feedback for invention disclosures, how to assess research results for commercial impact potential, and how to communicate the business opportunity of an invention. In cases where an invention may be patented and licensed to an external party, the trainees will learn how to cultivate relationships with industry and how to frame an invention in terms that convey meaningful value propositions to potential licensees and collaborators.

Schedule of the Training Program

The IIP Training Program will operate on a rolling basis to coincide with the terms of PSU’s academic calendar. Cohorts will start two weeks before classes begin and finish the week before final exams. Trainees will participate in two consecutive cohorts across two terms as shown below. While some trainees may stay with the program longer, the expectation is that as we have rolling new trainees for each PSU term, there will be overlap, and each trainee will help the newest members of their cohort learn the skills needed and provide guidance. There will be a break between each term, roughly following the first and last class dates of each academic term [the Summer Term will be longer with a mid-term break due to the nature of PSU’s academic calendar].

Cohort overlap will generally fall into the schedule below, with minor changes to match the start date of the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall terms at PSU:

Concurrent Cohorts Terms Approximate Dates
A & B Winter & Spring 1/7 - 6/9
B & C Spring & Summer 4/1 - 9/15
C & D Summer & Fall 6/24 - 12/02
D & A Fall & Winter 9/30 - 3/17

 

Woman working in lab

Time Commitment

Trainees should expect to set aside 10 hours/week on average to achieve the goals and expected outcomes of the IIP Training Program. Some weeks will be slightly less, and some will be slightly more. Face to face meeting times will be set up for each cohort to match the availability of the group. Groups will meet together at least once a week to provide feedback on projects. Participants with a need to travel may be excused from weekly meetings pending IIP approval or in the event of emergencies. IIP will give trainees a space to work together and develop report-out materials. Two hours each week will be for group discussion of findings thus far and feedback from the entire cohort. Trainees will interpret feedback from the cohort and iterate each week, presenting refined and newly-gathered information in the next group meetings.

Activities

During the four to six week period between training and wrap-up of a given cohort, the trainees will be organized into two teams each responsible for the assessment of two current or historic invention disclosures held by IIP. After initial training regarding the intellectual and business assessment of invention disclosure, the cohort teams will be required to meet weekly with IIP staff to discuss their research methodology, any conclusions that are drawn from the data collected, and to make a plan for the following week.

Meeting room

Outcomes

Each cohort will end with the two teams formally submitting a report according to the IIP Disclosure Review template. The Disclosure Review will contain referenced patents, published papers, industry data, and other relevant information to support the conclusions with the report. Trainees will be given the opportunity to talk with faculty outside of their chosen academic field, trained to utilize patent, scholarly, and business databases to develop conclusions and recommendations for their assigned Invention Disclosures.

Trainees will be asked to prepare a short presentation for each project presenting their recommendations in terms meant for a lay/business audience, describing the state of the technology, possible commercialization pathways, and if applicable a project plan for gathering the resources necessary to take additional steps toward commercialization. In most cases, the trainees will be given the opportunity to present their findings to the PSU innovators who submitted the Invention Disclosure.