ViKtoria Ventures, in collaboration with KeNIA, recently launched the Research to Commercialization (R2C) program, which has eight researchers on board. The essential program activities will include the following: Taking the researchers through an accelerator program, training of Trainers to set up R2C programs in their institutions, coaching and monthly webinars. We will run monthly webinars (every 2nd Thursday at 11-1200hrs EAT).

The R2C program prepares researchers and innovators to transition their research output to commercial value and scalable businesses through action-oriented training and coaching that will allow researchers and innovators to commercialize.

Our first webinar topic was on Commercializing Research Outputs: Strategies to Overcome Bureaucracy, and the discussants were Dr James Wakiru from Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT), the Director of the Start-up Center, where they support students to commercialize by setting up startups. Prof. Gurpreet Jagpal, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Suffolk, drives business engagement across the institution and region and leads the development of enterprises and entrepreneurship. 

Our guest speakers delivered an informative session, and here are some of the webinar’s highlights. The speakers covered some of the commercialization enablers within Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Research Centers, such as:

  1. A distinction of the value brought by the different parties (researchers/institution), investment (time, money, skills), and a commensurate share allocation. 
  2. Having clear policies and procedures for the commercialization of researchers needs to be agreed upon by the institutions.
  3. Institutional leadership buy-in and support to commercialization.
  4. Building a culture across institutions where commercialization is recognized, valued and supported. Researchers should have the opportunity to be involved.
  5. Researchers having an entrepreneurial mindset: Integrating an entrepreneurship mindset is essential as they will also focus on solving a problem and commercializing their research as compared to obtaining academic recognition only.
  6. Forging the right partnerships; (Tripple Helix) Community linkage to be responding to a real problem with a realistic solution, industry linkages for technical support such as testing environment, investor scoping and engagement

Policies: Policy setup and operationalization require co-creation and contextualization to meet the needs of all key stakeholders; this calls for flexibility and agility of the different parties. Understanding the policy environment, i.e., specific institutional needs, the specific areas of research, researchers’ need, and government requirements, can strengthen the policy-making process and enable researchers to commercialize their research outputs. 

Some of the pitfalls that can be avoided include the following: 

  1. Lack of clarity on Intellectual Property (IP) ownership and management.
  2. Lack of clarity on the specified roles of the university, the researcher, and the industry and community. 
  3. Skills gap assessment would enable the institutions to support/reinforce the necessary and missing skills to facilitate commercialization.

In conclusion, the institutions’ fraternity (administration, faculty, students, researchers) should be encouraged to have an entrepreneurial mindset, enabling them to look for opportunities to commercialize their research projects. This can be done by employing a change management process at the institutions.