Once students, professionals, or entrepreneurs have invented something unique, they do not always know how to proceed. They could patent the innovation and pitch it to a manufacturer or technologies company. They could seek out funding for a start-up business and retain control of the invention. They can also just hang onto the idea, and hope no one comes up with something similar before they decide how to proceed. Those decisions are not easy, nor are the processes of patents, developing executive summaries, and navigating funding sources.
People will need information, education, assistance, and experience. There are a few opportunities to gain knowledge, support, and experience within the University of Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Program. The Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program, for example, includes commercialization clinics and innovation mentors. An I2C Fellowship is an eight week paid summer program, and there is a six-month internship that is also available.
The Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO) has resources and processes that are designed to transition discoveries and inventions developed at the University into businesses. That process begins with the assignment of an invention manager to advise inventors of some possible next steps, such as formally disclosing the invention, doing an invention assessment, understanding license negotiations, applying for a patent, or filing intellectual property. Processes are complicated, and can take from several months, to a few years.
The INVO also maintains an online database of inventions that allows industry leaders to research Northwestern technologies. Information online includes details of policies, such as the patent and invention Policy; the copyright policy; student policies, and the royalty distribution policy. Informational videos, forms, and types of agreements can also be found online.
Funding for the venture-capitalist is also available, via the NUVC program, in specific sectors. Early-stage technologies funding, and seed funds to help develop start-up businesses are also offered on a competitive basis. Innovations have to have a dramatic impact on the general public, and help to increase economic growth. Some companies in the biomedical field that have been funded in the past include those that have developed optics, heart valves, mesh sutures, and therapeutics. Other fields have included communication and information technologies, and design and robotics.