So many research projects seem to end this way, maybe with excellent results but with no plan or prospect for those results to be exploited by business. I have no idea of the statistics, but I am sure that the exploitation rate of the results of projects is rather low. I am hearing more and more examples where project teams, including users, regret being unable to continue as the project ends and a gap is foreseen before new funds may allow continued work. It is a problem with users who have become accustomed to having free access to services which then disappear.
For industry it is very frustrating to face heavy competition for funds at the outset knowing that the chances of success are maybe weak whilst research groups from universities and institutes are far more successful. And this in the knowledge that it is highly unlikely that the results will enable new products or services to be brought to market.
At EARSC we are trying to set up a process to help business to bring the results of research to commercial realisation; from research to business. This will comprise of expert support to researchers and innovators from whatever background, to access the best support for the stage of maturity which they have reached. We introduce the concept of an Exploitation Readiness Level (ERL) which reflects this level of maturity.
We seek to ensure access to expert advice on markets, on legal issues, on technical issues or on finance. Many sources of support for each of these exist and so we plan to link to as many as possible and to connect innovators to experts who are able to support them with the advice that they need. Are they missing a key technology? We have a large database of companies which may be able to help? Do they need a market assessment for the product or service which they are working on? We have the expertise to undertake this assessment and/or the resources to engage with an expert in the domain.
Depending on their situation, they may seek project funds, they may need loans, they may need equity finance. Again, we can connect with many potential sources and are aware of different funding agencies and programmes which may be suitable for the innovator. The ERL will be the guide for the type and degree of resource which is required.
In short, we seek to make our expertise and that of our network available for those seeking to bring new ideas to market.
Now we also wish to deploy this paradigm in projects so that rather than being static, they will develop and evolve during their lifetime. We may not need to be part of a project ourselves, but we should be able to introduce new ideas coming from partnerships which will allow the project to also benefit from the approach. A favourite project style at the moment is to have a number of pilot projects which are supported by a project team. This is great; but the project starts with x pilots and ends with x pilots or maybe less. What if we can help introduce new pilots to the project so that it is developing? It is in effect growing as it progresses. This helps the project to develop ideas which have a better chance of generating new commercial products and services.
We hope to start work on this next year. Ironically, since we also need funding, it depends on the success of a proposal. But as there was only one proposal with a very strong team behind it we are quite optimistic. Once we start, we shall of course communicate further on our progress and I really hope that we can be successful to support many new businesses, or old business with new ideas, to develop their commercial success. From Research to Business.