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Prototype Development

The vast majority of the research that is undertaken at UBC is government grant funded academic research. Consequently, inventions that are disclosed to the UILO are typically at a very early stage along the development path to commercialization.

Because of the high technical risk and long timeframe for developing products from such early-stage inventions it is often difficult for the UILO to attract the commercial partners (licensees or investors) that are required to develop the technology further towards the marketplace.

This leads to the unfortunate situation where many promising inventions are in danger of languishing between the realms of basic research and commercially viable technology, often due to the need for relatively small investments of development dollars. This disconnect is colloquially known as the "Technology Funding Gap."

In 1989, the UILO addressed the Technology Funding Gap by creating its own Prototype Development Program (PDP). UBC was the first university in Canada to establish a Prototype Development Program and it has since been used as a model for other universities. The PDP is intended to facilitate the development and commercialization of early stage inventions with scarce resources by providing the management and funding necessary to validate and realize the commercial potential of the technology.

Such validation may, for example, be provided through:

  • Creation of additional data to enable proper assessment of market demand
  • Development of prototypes or scale-up of technologies
  • Assessment of critical technical and/or marketing questions relating to the technology
  • Positioning of the technology to obtain further investment for development (CIHR PoP, NSERC I2I, industry sponsor, spin-off)
  • Identification of steps required to "productize" university research
  • Fostering the development of UBC spin-off companies

For more information on the PDP, available only to researchers at UBC and its Affiliated Teaching Hospitals, please contact Paul Cyr 604-822-8166.

NSERC and CIHR each run their own prototype development programs Idea to Innovation (I2I) and Proof of Principle (PoP) to assist university researchers commercialize their discoveries.

These funding programs that are designed to advance university discoveries into commercializable technologies. The programs were created with a view to attract new investment, create new science-based businesses, and facilitate the transfer of university technology into the marketplace. In addition to these government supported programs, the UILO has a limited, discretionary budget available for funding prototype development activities.

Both the CIHR PoP and the NSERC I2I programs are split into phases such that later stages of the awards require matching investment by an eligible company or investor. Submission of a proposal to either of these programs requires a significant input of time and resources from the UILO, for this reason the UILO will only support applications where the following criteria have been met:

  • The technology must be the subject of a complete Invention Disclosure to the UILO, including the signatures of all co-inventors. This disclosure must be received by the UILO a minimum of 90 days prior to the relevant application deadline in order to provide the UILO sufficient time to complete an internal assessment of the technology.
  • The UILO's internal evaluation of the technology must:
    • Confirm that the University has the ability to obtain an unencumbered intellectual property position with respect to the disclosed technology.
    • Confirm that there are no pre-existing 3rd party rights to the technology’s Intellectual Property, e.g. rights under material transfer agreements, collaborative research agreements, options or licenses. Any inter-institutional agreements that are necessary should be completed prior to starting the application process.
    • Assess the potential gross revenue return to the University following commercialization of the technology as meeting the following hurdles
      • Physical Sciences $200,000 per year
      • Life Sciences (diagnostics/research tool) $200,000 per year
      • Life Sciences (therapeutic) $500,000 per year
    • Confirm that the development of the technology is a good candidate for funding under the I2I or PoP program and an application has a high chance of success.
  • Both programs provide support for the costs of commercialization (patent costs etc.) associated with a technology. The researcher should consult with their Technology Transfer Manager at the UILO to ensure that there is adequate room in the submitted budget to accommodate these costs.

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