First Beedie Graduate Certificate cohort transforming invention to innovationOct 07, 2016
The first students to complete the new Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization program at SFU’s Beedie School of Business are preparing to transform their game-changing technology inventions into viable, commercialized innovations.
The pioneering certificate program equips scientists and engineers from SFU and UBC with the management skills they need to make their inventions a commercial success.
Participation in the Certificate has already reaped benefits for many of the students in the first cohort.
Two of the graduating students, Ben Britton and Ehsan Daneshi, have reached both the final 10 stage at New Ventures BC, and the finals of the Invention to Innovation venture pitch competition.
“It’s been a privilege to watch their innovation ideas evolve into compelling value propositions backed by resilient commercialization strategies,” says Elicia Maine, academic director of the certificate. “There’s never been a question that these PhD scientists are highly intelligent and motivated. The challenge has been knowing how to identify, validate, and prioritize market opportunities – and thus product development priorities – and to communicate effectively with investors”.
SFU chemistry PhD student Finlay MacNab’s invention, a home diagnostic device that prevents life-threatening infection during chemotherapy treatment, is one of six to be presented to angel investors at a special venture pitch event this October.
According to MacNab, the Certificate has been invaluable, conveying a broader picture of entrepreneurship that complements his technical background.
“What I was building was more like a solution looking for a problem, but the course taught me to solve problems, not build solutions,” says MacNab.
MacNab lists myriad benefits from the program. He says it taught him how to integrate the full perspective of the business environment into his critical thinking, and introduced him to a network of Vancouver’s angel investors and medical entrepreneurs.
“The risks for scientists in devoting themselves to implementing their ideas are enormous,” he says. “Being able to reduce the uncertainty associated with launching a startup has given me the confidence to pursue my venture.”
Fellow classmate Lupin Battersby, health sciences PhD student interested in knowledge translation, approached the program from a different perspective.
Battersby is affiliated with AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, and is completing the network’s Early Professionals, Inspired Careers program.
She opted to bring one of the organization’s projects to the program: smart-powered wheelchair technology that is similar in concept to Google’s self-driving cars.
Despite not having the technology background that other students in the class possessed, Battersby says the program was excellent for learning how to bridge research and practice.
“There was a steep learning curve in business language for me, I feel I got a lot out of the course,” she says. “I see the potential for tangible impacts throughout my career.”
She has since redistributed her newfound knowledge throughout AGE-WELL, working as part of a team to develop a series of workshops on bridging science and commercialization.
“The course has impacted not only me, but also both AGE-WELL and the innovation idea itself,” she says.
“Coming from a social sciences background was daunting, but the program has connected the dots for me and helped me see pathways to market for the team’s invention that weren’t there before.”