Technology Marketing Training

Posted May 30, 2018

As a Senior Advisor to the President of King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Dr. Phyllis Speser has been teaching spin-outs how to work trade fairs to gain initial customers along with Eliza Stefanow, a senior member of KMUTT’s technology transfer office, and Dr. Chanikarn Wongviriyawong, CEO and founder of EatLab, a spinout based on applying advanced AI algorithms for image processing and big data algorithms to create a more effective and less expensive way of determining likely product success and rates and extent of market penetration in the food processing and restaurant sectors. The training took place at Thaifex, a huge trade show for food and beverage manufacturers throughout Asia. The training emphasized seeking beta testers who would be willing to coauthor articles in trade publications and place orders if the technology worked as promised. As part of the training Eatlab landed several potential lead customers.

Confronting Future Challenges in Tech Transfer

Posted May 26, 2018

Foresight Chair of the Board, Dr. Phyllis Speser, was the closing keynote speaker at the 2018 ASTP Annual Conference in Liege in May 25, 2018. Her talk focused on future challenges for technology transfer. Noting that most TTOs lose money for their institution or lab, and most technologies never make it to market, she questioned the wisdom of focusing on licenses and revenues as key metrics. She noted that the emphasis on money and licenses distracted attention from social impact, such a reducing illness, mitigating climate change, providing clean energy, and so forth. Social impact, she went on, can be measured in terms of United Nations European Union, and national government priorities. Such an emphasis would allow TTOs and their institution to demonstrate their utility to the public and political decision makers in ways money does not. It would also better align TTO activities with the common perceived mission of a university, government lab, research hospital or non profit lab, namely creation and dissemination of knowledge for the good of all. She encourage the attendees to engage in a thought experiment on their portfolios, looking at how they would manage them differently if maximizing positive social impact and the dissemination of knowledge were their primary metrics. How would it affect how they dealt with student entrepreneurs and educational activities within the university or other institutions? She concluded by looking at potential new models for structuring TTOs given such shifts in priorities.

International Collaboration Panel

Posted on February 22, 2018

On February 18-21 Foresight Science & Technology participated in the AUTM Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Phyllis Speser, Foresight’s Chair of the Board and Dr. Konstantin Izvolsky, Director of Consulting and Training were also part of the AUTM panel “International Collaboration Models for Technology Transfer” as the Moderator and Presenter respectfully. Other panel presenters included: David Ai, City University of Hong Kong, Nares Damrongchai, Thailand Center of Excellence for Life Sciences, Shawn Hawkins, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Eliza Stefaniw, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi.

The globalization of modern economy results in the expansion of international collaboration between universities, research institutions and businesses around the world. Foresight’s own discussions with international clients emphasize the importance and growing interest in international collaboration. To address the interest of our clients in this aspect of the technology commercialization Foresight makes the introduction to the international collaboration a part of the training course on the basics of technology commercialization. Currently this training course is presented by Dr. Speser to the TTO staff and industrial liaison managers in King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) in Thailand.

The panel discussed the importance of considering the cultural differences and specifics in dealing with global partners. The key point, emphasized by all panelists is the importance of blending the unique cultural advantages offered by each individual country with the heavily westernized global business culture to build and maintain the efficient and productive the long-term partnerships.

One of the panelists, Dr. David Ai from City University of Hong Kong discussed the challenges in establishing working relations with Chinese businesses. It is not a secret that developing strong relations with Chinese partners is challenging due to cultural, political and economic barriers. The significant role of the government in multiple aspects of Chinese business as well as the attempts of Chinese and local governments to make the business dealing more transparent have the significant impact on technology transfer, partnership and business development. Dr. Ai emphasized the importance of strategic planning in dealing with Chinese partners as well as accurate selection of “technology champion” (usually on the local government level) capable of promoting and supporting the collaboration.

Dr. Konstantin Izvolsky from Foresight Science & Technology discussed the criteria which should be used to identify a potential commercialization partner in Life Science industry. In Foresight’s experience, the size of the partner not always indicates its willingness to cooperate and support the outside technology. Based on the analysis of interviews conducted with the experts in life science industry, Foresight was able to identify common trends supporting the notion that smaller companies may be more willing to adopt the early stage outside technologies, but it will require much more focused approach from small startups. This information can be useful for small international life science startups trying to bring their innovations to the US market.


Thailand LES 2018

Posted on February 2, 2018

On February 1, 2017, Foresight Board Chair Phyllis Speser, J.D., Ph.D., R.T.T.P., gave the Keynote Address at the Thai Licensing Executives Society (LES) Annual Meeting. The meeting was focused on the Impact of Industry 4.0 and artificial Intelligence on the practice of intellectual property law in Thailand. The quick take-away from the meeting for Foresight clients was there is a lot of government money in Thailand for R&D, product development, and manufacturing in-county and for establishing subsidiaries or companies there. Equally important, Thailand is a country which strongly respects IP rights.

Dr. Speser has become a leading authority on IP and commercialization throughout Thailand. She is currently consulting as the Senior Advisor to King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi – a leading Thai university in Bangkok and number 31 globally in industry funding.

In her speech, Dr. Speser explicitly said she would not discuss the ethical issues connected with AI. She would instead explore three impacts of deep convergence and other advanced AI methods on IP itself. She began by exploring how machines got better at pattern recognition and authoring, the way IP law firms file, prosecute, and seek to invalidate patents will change. This change will increase the importance of software technicians in law offices at the expense of IP lawyers and paralegals unless we change our skill mix and the education of legal professionals. Second, she discussed the impact on the value of IP for companies in a world where design around of patents and independent invention of trade secret by smart machines is increasingly easier on the one hand and the rate of invention increases rapidly due the productivity of researchers using smart computers on the other hand. Since the value of IP is partially tied to its ability to grant a de jure or de facto monopoly position over an extended period of time, we should expect IP (other than fundamental patents) to have less value. Third, she explored the impact on IP law itself when machines independently invent. Referencing Naruto v. Slater, the famous copyright dispute that ended by denying protection to a selfie snapped by a monkey on the grounds all the photographer did was set up the equipment and thus the selfie was not an “original intellectual conceptions of the author,” she argued machine-made inventions may be denied patent protection on analogous grounds (setting up a self-learning and training software program and pushing the start button is not invention). Further, it is well established a parent does not own the inventions of their child nor does a patent for manufacturing equipment gives the licensor rights in the product made with the licensed equipment. Underlying both is the assumption people should own the fruits of their labor. Analogous to the former, an inventor might be denied ownership of the independent unpredictable inventions of intelligent software which learns by creating its own neural net training sets or other independent means. It is not their labor which is bearing fruit. It is the labor of the smart machine they gave “birth” to. Analogous to the latter, selling an AI program to a company may not allow asserting rights to what it creates. A license to use does not give ownership to the product of that use. All three cases (the monkey, the parent, the product) raise interesting questions about the implicit role of human created “techne” (intentional technique which creates known outcomes) as the grounding assumption underlying all IP law. We see this assumption in the first patent ever. In ancient Greece, a patent was issued to encourage disclosure of a food recipe (literally the “secret sauce”). The first English patent was to obtain disclosure from a Dutch company to Englishmen of a method of making glass. The issue for IP law is what happens when techne is separated from human intervention and invention – when the machine invents the techne on its own without any meaningful human intervention. It is not yet clear how patent agencies and courts around the world will handle that issue. One path is to use the analogy to the monkey selfie and deny patent rights. The other path is to update the assumption behind patent law to allow granting rights for non-human created IP. The latter, however, may open a new bad of worms concerning who owns the patents of children, students, and apprentices. Not surprisingly, this talk was very well received and repeatedly referenced in discussions over the meeting’s two days.

Above Phyllis Speser is pictured with Alan Adcock- Deputy Director, Intellectual Property at Tilleke & Gibbins and President of LES Thailand, and Wilaiporn Chetanchan- Director, Corporate Technology at the Siam Cement Group, the largest and oldest cement and building material company in Thailand and Southeast Asia. She is one of the founders of LES Thailand.

NASA Langley Building Culture of Innovation through Fast Track To Market Competition

Posted June 24, 2017 By: Daniel Satinsky, VP of Business Development

NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) is continuing to develop a culture supporting technology commercialization through its second annual “Fast Track to Market Competition” which took place on June 22, 2017. Conceived by Foresight Science & Technology, LaRC’s technology commercialization support contractor, the Office of Innovation at the Office of Strategic Analysis, Communications and Business Development (OSACB) solicited technologies from LaRC’s research community in healthcare, transportation and heating & cooling.

Out of more than twenty submissions, ten competing teams were selected. They then went through a two-day pitch training session to orient them on how best to promote the commercial value of their technology in preparation for their presentation to a panel of experienced outside judges. Each team made a seven-minute pitch presentation to a panel of industry experts, composed of Eric Prescott, General Electric; Terry Hall, Hall Analytics, LLC; Jerry Cronin, Center for Enterprise Innovation, Old Dominion University; Jay Borkland, Tufts University; Luke Chow, Prime Manufacturing Technologies, Inc.; Marty Kaszubowski, Center for Enterprise Innovation, Old Dominion University; and Carl Knoblock, U.S. Small Business Administration. The judges then presented their evaluations and recommendations to OSACB. Norton Kaplan, who initiated the idea of the competition and Daniel Satinsky, who recruited the panel, led the Foresight support team.

The competition built upon last year’s competition to attract broader attention and interest in commercialization from the LaRC researchers. As a result there were a number of very interesting and potentially commercially successful technologies presented to the judges. With some difficulty due to the high quality of the competition, two technologies were selected to receive additional research funding and commercialization support. The winning technologies were a laser vibrometer for remote monitoring of cardiac activity and a laser surface treatment and spectroscopic analysis system. The promising technologies that did not receive an award will receive marketing and promotional support for outreach to industry from OSACB over the next year. So in most senses, all the participants were winners and the competition itself was another building block in the growing commercialization culture at LaRC.

The First McDonald’s in Hungary: “Tasting the Capitalism”

Posted June 3, 2017 By: Phyllis Speser, CEO

Foresight again sponsored and exhibited at the ASTP-Proton Annual Conference this year. A delightful part of the ASTP-Proton Annual Conference is a walking city tour the first afternoon. This year we strolled downtown Pesh, one side of the river in Budapest. Our tour guide, George, stopped in front of a McDonalds to inform us it was the first McDonalds in Hungary, opened shortly after the Soviets left. It is also the fanciest one the world. The building is the old railway station, which was built in 1877 by the Eiffel Company. That firm is better known for its Eiffel Tower project in Paris.

Prior to being a McDonalds, Budapest’s Western Railway Station housed an old and very posh family-run restaurant – the kind where you had to dress well to eat well. The last of the family wanted out of the restaurant business but no-one wanted to buy the restaurant. So owner decided to sell the building and shutter the business. As it was a prime downtown location. McDonalds wanted it for their first Hungarian operation.

There was one unusual provision in the sale according to George: For a period of some years, sufficient for the prior generation to die off, the dress code had to be maintained. Now normally you’d think that would kill the deal, but someone in McDonalds was clever. At that time, there was pretty much only two kinds of meat in Hungary after years of Communism: high end (the kind the restaurant had served) or low-end (like greasy goulash and sausages). The hamburgers we Westerners have come to hate or love fell in-between by local standards. This enabled positioning McDonalds as a purveyor of middle class meat for the masses, which after the shortages and hardships plus brutality of the Soviet-backed regime was something to celebrate, something worth dressing up for so you could “Taste the Capitalism.” Which was the marketing slogan McDonalds used to introduce the store into Hungary.

There is a takeaway for those of us in the tech business. Innovation has a social dimension. The timing of McDonalds’ first restaurant in Budapest made eating there a celebration of freedom. Hence people had no problem dressing up to go for a burger. We call that “leveraging a market driver.” World historical change is a powerful market driver.

The equivalent world historical change today is global climate change. Innovations which address or mitigate it will be celebrated just as the first McDonalds was in its day.

Thoughts from Attending the ASTP-Proton Annual Conference in Budapest

Posted on June 2, 2018 By: Phyllis Speser, CEO

In a session on the commercialization of Social Science, Humanities, and Arts (SSHA) inventions, the presenters discussed how you measure impact. It struck me as curious that no-one mentioned what was perhaps the greatest example of impact in modern times, especially in light of the fact we were in Hungary. That example is the rise of communism and then it’s replacement by capitalism in Eastern Europe.

Communism is, of course, directly traceable to the humanities. Karl Marx was a student of law and philosophy at the University of Berlin. There, he studied Hegel, who provided the philosophical scaffolding for the movement of history, although Marx transformed Hegel’s spiritual movement into a physical one rooted in the relationships of production. Engels brought a social scientific data-driven perspective which populated this scaffolding. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Prague Spring, and the Grobachev reforms in Russia also have their roots in SSHA, for it was critical theorists and students who were among those at the forefront. The work of Hungarian Georg Lukacs and his students is an example. Written in the aftermath of the Prague Spring, Lukacs book The Process of Democratization was a precursor to many of the Gorbachev reforms.

Growing Opportunities in Asia

Posted May 3, 2017 By: Konstantin Izvolsky, Director of Assessment & Training

On April 24-25, 2017 Dr. Phyllis Speser (CEO) and I represented Foresight Science & Technology at the AUTM Asia-2017 conference which took place in Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. Several hundred attendees representing China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, India and other countries discussed the problems associated with the integration of the Asian academic institutions into the global technology innovation ecosystem and the development of the efficient mechanisms driving the successful academic technology transfer and entrepreneurship in Asia. First off, we would like to thank our friend Dr. David Ai, AUTM Asia 2017 Organizing Committee Chairman, and many volunteers representing several Hong Kong Universities for this wonderful experience.

In recent years, we have witnessed the unparalleled economic growth in South East Asia. The strength of academic research and the introduction of new policies promoted the unprecedented growth in the number of filed PCT applications (particularly in China) while the availability of international financial resources resulted in the spike in entrepreneurial activity and the creation of large technology parks in Honk Kong, Singapore and Shenzhen focusing on global innovation. At the same time, Asian region is extremely diverse and while some countries have been able to develop efficient innovation ecosystems others, like Thailand and Philippines, only now start to actively promote academic innovation. The lack of efficient policies as well as gaps in education and training of the new generation of academic technology transfer managers and even language barriers are seen as the major hurdles in the integration of these countries in global innovation ecosystem. These issues, among others, were openly discussed during the “The Renaissance of the Ancient Silk Road” session at the second day of the conference.

We see tremendous business opportunities in Asia. It is clear, that even in the regions like Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and China there are multiple ways to facilitate entrepreneurship and to help Asia-based startups exploring international markets, particularly the US market. Several possible scenarios of such collaborations have been discussed with colleagues from China, Singapore and Hong Kong during the conference. For example, we believe that Asian startups can explore the US market by creating the US-based spinoffs and utilizing well-established funding mechanisms like SBIR/STTR. Foresight is very interested in exploring this model and is ready to assist small Asian startups in entering the US market by assessing the market opportunity, identifying potential partners and funding sources for the technology development and in marketing the technology. Also, the abundance of financial resources, advanced technopark infrastructure and the proximity to the Chinese market makes Hong Kong the ideal launching platform for the US- and EU-based startups interested in exploring the market opportunities in the South-East Asia.

In addition, our experience in providing the training covering the key aspects of the academic technology transfer raised significant interest from technology transfer professionals from China and Thailand. It should be noted that Foresight already has very positive experience in providing training to South East Asia academic institutions. At the end of 2016 Foresight conducted two-day training session to the selected group of technology transfer and licensing professionals from several Hong Kong universities, including the City University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and several others. This training session was organized in collaboration with Dr. David Ai and received very positive reviews. Foresight plans to capitalize on this success and is ready to provide interactive training sessions to technology transfer professionals focusing on each country’ specifics.

We here at Foresight look forward to productive interactions with our colleagues from Asia and providing the expertise and knowledge to support Asia-based startups and the more efficient integration of Asian academic institutions into the global innovation ecosystem.

AUTM 2017 Experience/Observations From a First-Timer

Posted on March 17, 2017 By: Reda El Alami, Analyst

From March 13th to 16th I attended the 2017 AUTM Annual Meeting in Hollywood, FL. As a newbie to AUTM, my experience during this conference was a series of first times followed by moments of reflection. I had anticipated that the conference would be a smaller and more intimate setting, but it was far from what I had imagined, with nearly 2,000 attendees from all around the world. My expectation was shattered on Day 1.. What I thought would be a small and intimate learning experience turned out to be a massive production with several tracks and several sessions simultaneously taking place. All components of the Technology Transfer process were represented in their own professional capacity; from licensing associates, to technology scouts, to IP attorneys, to the cloud-based platforms designed to match inventions with investors, and everything in between. My concern of being one of the only attendees there was quickly appeased when I started noticing “First Time Attendee” ribbons on people’s badges. This small, and very welcoming ribbon was key to my success in learning to approach other attendees, learning about their background and their company and building a small network of professionals with the sole purpose of getting as much out of this conference as possible. As the hours rolled and the learning grew, I built the confidence to approach some of the more veteran attendees and just poked their brain on what they do, and which piece of the tech transfer process their organization fits in. It fascinated me to learn that so many people had already heard of Foresight from across the globe and some even owned Dr. Speser’s book ‘The Art and Science of Technology Transfer’. Although a lot of AUTM content was geared toward university professionals, the information delivered and emphasis to support attendees in learning and networking provided me with an invaluable experience.

Making and growing connections at AUTM2017

Posted on March 17, 2017 By: Alyssa Nacewicz, Director of Sales & Marketing

This year Foresight sent two staff members (myself included) to the AUTM Annual Meeting which took place March 13-15 in beautiful Hollywood, FL. In contrast to the last 14 years when we sponsored and exhibited at the event, we had the opportunity to enjoy the event as attendees, sit down, and really talk with our current and potential customers. Though the world has shifted so much towards connecting through social media, email, etc. we find that it is still extremely important to connect face-to-face. Being able to chat openly over lunch to raise opinions, questions, and concerns helps to build and grow connections that are extremely important in this industry.

Sometimes we get so lost in the work that we do to commercialize an innovation and get hung up on what needs to be done, that we begin to lose sight of why. This was the topic of what I felt was the most exciting part of the conference—the plenary speech by Kavita Shukla. Dr. Shukla spoke about her difficulties and ultimately success in commercializing her technology, FreshPaper. Her moving speech told the story of how and why she came up with her innovation and though at times she felt so close to giving up, she found inspiration from her colleagues, friends, and teachers to persevere. Among many of the other attendees, I walked out of the session feeling empowered, knowing that as technology transfer professionals we have the power to make a difference and bring about change the world.