This is a talk I gave in 2016 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR). It is one of the premier Indian R&D institutions and interested in commercializing its IP portfolio via startups a.k.a. spinoffs. My objective was to point potential founders towards relevant entrepreneurial resources.



I started with a perspective on India’s relative ranking on the innovation front. Then, I showed the opportunity for Indian R&D institutes to take their technologies to the market via licensing or entrepreneurship. I pointed out Imperial Innovations (UK) as a role model. Later, we considered how the go-to-market journey of a science startup is materially different than that of a software startup.


The figure above illustrates how Indian labs can design models to convert scientific research into commercial products. In this context, entrepreneurial resources include not only incubators and investors but also startup-friendly licensing policies and spinoff mechanisms.

Entrepreneurial Business Models

The most common mechanism for taking lab inventions to the market is licensing. However, the most lucrative one is the creation and nurturing of new ventures. Of course, a much greater degree of entrepreneurial resources is deployed in spinoffs than in a licensing deal. In the same vein, the upside from spinoff ventures can be orders of magnitude more than upfront or royalty fees from IP licenses.

Notably, proof-of-concept funding (PoC) plays a critical role in the spinoff journey. By providing capital at a time where no professional investor would participate, PoC grants from the government help catalyze the maturation of lab-scale technology. The other success factor is the underlying economics of the technology. For example, material science technologies take a long time to be accepted commercially. Medical diagnostic technologies, on the other hand, can be monetized sooner – albeit at a smaller scale. Finally, entrepreneurial success in deep-tech requires buy-in from a variety of stakeholders. These range from lab directors and BD heads to incubator managers and grant committee members.