IXA support in business development

Whenever an idea, innovation or (the possibility of) an invention pops up, the first thing to do is talk to the business developers at IXA.

‘When a researcher comes to IXA with an idea or invention the first thing we do, is enter into a dialogue’, says Willem Fokkema, business developer at IXA UvA-HvA and director of ACTA Dental Research BV. The IXA business developers are broadly oriented and experienced, and each of them is specialised in a certain scientific field. Willem focuses at the Sciences Faculty and has other colleagues dedicated at alpha, beta, gamma or life sciences. ‘We like to know what the idea or invention exactly entails and in what stage the idea is. What is the problem that this idea or invention could address? Are there similar products/services/applications already available? If so, what makes this idea/invention stand out or why is it different from the others?’

Publishing and patenting

Willem: ‘What is also important, is to know whether there are plans for publication or presentation of research results. In that case the sooner we hear about the idea the better, even if the idea or invention is still very much 'under construction’. The researcher needs to know what consequences publication can have for later patent application. Together we can decide what steps are needed for protection of the idea’.

An important element of patenting is novelty. Once details of an innovation are in the public domain, patent rights are lost.  Thus publishing an article about an invention  that is not yet patented, for instance, will automatically disqualify you from ever being able to protect it. Whether the idea or invention is truly inventive or innovative, is another element of patenting, meaning that it is not obvious to others who are specialized in this particular research or technology field.

What are the next steps

The next steps after the first intake, depends strongly on the nature and the developmental stage of the idea’, says Willem. ‘Together with the researcher we draw an outline of the needs of his or her project and the required funding. In some cases external parties are already interested in the idea and can help in the funding. In other cases the idea is so premature that other funding is needed, for instance for doing a technical or commercial feasibility study.  IXA can support in this through a Proof of Concept funding, for example the Academic Proof of Concept fund supported by the City of Amsterdam’.

If additional research is needed to bring the idea further, IXA invites external partners together with the researcher. Identifying potential partners is an important step. What are the motivations of an external party to collaborate. What are the needs of the company and do these correspond with the needs of the researcher?

Collaboration partners

Willem: ‘We can support in finding the right partner. Sometimes by using contacts of the researcher, in other cases we must actively look  for partners. We can do that for instance by using our own broad network in the public and private sector’.

Once the partners have agreed to collaborate, IXA actively participates in the negotiations and help to deal with the formal aspects. IXA has all the necessary legal and financial expertise for this purpose. ‘If an external partner funds further research for example, we can help in determining the financial, intellectual property and other legal aspects of the contract are fully compliant with the policies and guidelines of your institution. In that way we safeguard your interests and ensure an optimal outcome for your research group and institution but also for the company. What I like most about this work is solving all the puzzles which finally results in more funding for research. In the end all research revenues will return in new research', says Willem.