BME 385J: Technology Assessment and Transfer

Spring, 2005
Unique Number 13029
(TTh 9:30-11:00)
ETC 5.132

Instructor: Dr. D. Joel Wiggins, Director Austin Technology Incubator
Office: MCC 400

Office hours before and after class by appointment
Textbook: Jolly, Vijay. (1997). Commercializing new Technologies: Getting from mind to market. Boston: Harvard Business School.
Case studies and articles for in-class participation as assigned. You may have to purchase some of the case studies.

Course Description

The process of medical technology assessment is critical in determining whether a technique that is promising in the laboratory is commercialized and translated to routine clinical care. Intellectual entrepreneurs, both inside and outside the university, take risks and seize opportunities, discover and create knowledge, innovate, collaborate and solve problems in any number of social realms: corporate, non-profit, government, and education. The course will have three components: (1) Main assignment: students will develop a plan for assessing and commercializing a technology they are researching or would like to research. (2) Supporting Tools/Skills: In-class workshops and exercises will give students background in entrepreneurship, market dynamics, intellectual property, technology assessment and commercialization, resource development, team building and project management. (3) Technical Assistance of Campus Experts: Various speakers with experience in the fields of medical technology research and commercialization will speak to the class to offer their expertise and input (areas such as technology licensing, patents, entrepreneurship, etc.) The underlying objective of the course is to provide the student with a better understanding of the process of commercializing a technology and framing their research by market demands so that they truly invest their energies studying significant problems that will make a difference not only in their research career but also for the benefit of society.

Course Objectives

Personal: The student will discover his or her own passion, opportunity, and commitment to commercialize technology.
Process: The student will learn the elements of the process of commercializing a technology.
Project: The student will be able to write and present a Quicklook Analysis of his or her particular technology.

Course Outline

January 17, 2005
Course overview, context, Jolly model

January 24, 2005
Entrepreneurship overview

January 31, 2005

February 7, 2005
Quicklook Analysis process

February 14, 2005

February 21, 2005
Market dynamics

February 28, 2005

March 7, 2005
Intellectual property

March 14, 2005
Spring Break

March 21, 2005
Resource development

March 28, 2005

April 4, 2005
Team building

April 11, 2005

April 18, 2005
Project management

April 25, 2005
Project presentations

May 2, 2005


In-class discussion preparation 25%

Final Project

Quicklook Paper: 25%
Quicklook Presentation 25%

Commercialization Models paper 25%


Commercialization Models paper

This paper challenges you to discover, interact with, and develop a commercialization model of your own. Several models will be alluded to in class, but you should conduct your own search of institutional frameworks (e.g., MIT, NASA), corporate models (e.g., IBM, 3M), investment models (e.g., SATAI, Austin Ventures), and academic research.
Final paper not to exceed 10 pages (excluding bibliography)
Due: March 10

"A" papers must

  • consult at least 20 sources (cited in bibliography)
  • show originality based on prior research
  • include a one-page graphic representation of the model

"B" papers must

  • consult at least 15 sources (cited in bibliography)
  • evidence integration of the varous models
  • include a one-page graphic representation of the model

Quicklook Project

The goal of a Quicklook assessment is to get an early indication of commercial interest in an idea, invention, or area of research. The primary benefits of the reports are the potential partners/licensees that can be found. In cases where inventions are not well received by the commercial marketplace, the reports can give early warning signals that the proposed area of research or proposed patent may be a non-starter and further investigation is needed prior to funding either more research or a patent submission.

Step 1 - Identify potential markets
Approach: Contact inventor or an analogue
Brainstorm with others
Identify Similar Products
Skim abstracts, may do a database search

Typically the inventor is an excellent source for this information because they invented the product because it could not be found on the open market (usually) or the invention is the product of research that had specific goals in mind, e.g. to develop a better battery. It is also important to brainstorm with others in the office because different backgrounds and experiences may point to more uses than the inventor specifies.

If it is difficult to identify how or where the invention could be used, identifying similar products may give some clues to utility of the product. If the identified markets are obscure or the usefulness of the invention is not clear, a database search may indicate new markets or avenues of research.

Step 2 - Identify end users, distributors and potential licensees

Approach: Contact Associations
Search CorpTech
Search Thomas Register
Search Dunn & Bradstreet

Because the Quicklook assessment depends on primary research, this step is critical. After the markets have been identified in Step 1, it should be relatively easy to identify who the customers would be in those markets and who manufactures similar products for the market. The best sources are usually companies that manufacture similar products, because they will be more global in their response to the invention. A potential customer or licensee will react to the invention by indicating how many customers may be interested in a product and be more aware if a similar product is already on the market.

Potential customers of the product are also good sources of information about the invention. While their responses usually deal more with specific uses in their operations, they sometimes can offer information about competing products or more importantly, a manufacturer that might be interested in the product that was not previously identified.

Step 3 - Contact experts and companies

Approach: Interview the identified contacts

When contacting the identified manufacturers and/or users of the subject invention, it is important to remember that you are contacting the companies to get their expert opinions on the viability or usefulness of the product. Most people are happy to talk about anything if you treat them as the expert they believe they are. Also, you are calling about something that could potentially help their company, so there is something in it for them. Let them know that their company could be a potential licensee of this product or similar products available from the labs in the federal laboratory system.

When talking to the companies, emphasize the potential benefits of the invention not just the features. It is rarely necessary, and usually impossible, to describe how an invention works, but you must be able to describe why it would be important in the marketplace.

Usually, the best people to talk to are in marketing or R&D. Marketing is good because they have a global view of the market place. R&D is good because they usually have a good idea about similar products or on-going research.

Sample question areas:

  • Would a product that had these performance characteristics be important?
  • Is there a large market for products like this? Who would use it?
  • How do similar products on the market currently solve this problem? Who makes them?
  • What is an appropriate price point?

It is always a good idea to reconfirm data that has been collected from companies in primary research. If you get a piece of information that may be useful, try to reconfirm it with the next phone call. Also, when asking about the potential market size, it is always a good idea to offer some scale examples if they are reluctant to make a guess on their own. For example, ask them if the market would be closer to 10,000 units or 100, 000 units. When the choices are so different, they are more likely to say whether the market is closer to one size or the other.

Usually, only 8 to 10 productive interviews, phone calls or e-mail conversations are necessary to complete the Quicklook commercialization study. It will not take many conversations with industry experts to find out if the invention is a star or if the product will face an uphill battle in the marketplace.

Step 4 - Write the report

Approach: Compile research findings

When writing the report it is important to note all viewpoints on the invention because the full range of responses will give an indication of value of the invention. An invention that is met with universal cheers and interest is typically more valuable than an invention that is met with ambivalence by most and moderate interest by others. Also, if there are any negative comments, they may point out barriers to entry for the invention, potential competition, or issues that the inventor/institution must address prior to market entry.

The entire Quicklook process should only take about 40 hours. It is not designed to be an in-depth market analysis report that will give a complete market picture to potential licensees. It is an information tool to be used for the targeting of the invention for license or information to be used in a go/no go decision.

Format of the Report

To facilitate comparisons between different products, it is necessary to have a common format with common information about each market and technology. Each section needs to answer as many specific questions about the commercial viability of the product and achieve specific goals.

Executive Summary
3 paragraph summary of technology, market, and recommendation

Technology Description
Describe the important technical attributes of the invention in language a non-expert understands.

Potential Benefits
Describe the benefits of the technology, not just the features, and the problems that the technology can solve.

Potential Commercial Markets

  • What products/processes could result from the technology?
  • What is the health and future of the industries that constitute the market for the technology?
  • What are the key technology benefits being sought by the buyers in the market?
  • What is the potential market size and demand as a function of time?

Market Interest
What is the level of interest from those contacted?

Development Status of the Technology
Is the technology a prototype, paper idea, bench model?

Intellectual Property Status of the Technology
Is there a patent filed or granted?

Competing Technologies and Competitors

  • What other technologies are currently being used to solve the problem addressed by the subject technology?
  • Who uses similar technologies?
  • Does the subject technology have a demonstrable and sustainable advantage over competitive technologies in the marketplace?
  • Who are some of the competing companies and do they dominate the marketplace?

Barriers to Market Entry

  • Outline barriers to market entry.
  • Outline keys to market entry.


  • State a go/no go decision.
  • Outline what the next steps are that need to be taken to help commercialize or license the technology.

Commercial Potential Rating (Cloverleaf Model of Griffith, Heslop, & Gregor, 1999)

  • Factors
  • Market Readiness
  • Technology Readiness
  • Commercial Readiness
  • Management Readiness

Step 5--Make the presentation (details will be given in class)

Final paper not to exceed 8 pages (excluding interview data)

Due: April 27

"A" projects must

  • include at least 8 primary interviews
  • indicate a well-argued go/no go recommendation
  • follow the format instructions
  • display quality (grammar, graphics, information gathered, etc.)
  • presentation meets (or exceeds) all format, content, and time guidelines

"B" papers must

  • include at least 5 primary interviews
  • follow the format instructions
  • provide reasonable support for conclusions
  • presentations meets all format, content, and time guidelines

Class Policies

  • Collaboration is encouraged with classmates, professors, and others.
  • Since all ideas come from somewhere, be careful to delineate your own thought from that of other sources.
  • Be prepared for in class discussions.
  • Notify instructor of absences ahead of class.
  • No late work will be accepted.