1. Assessing the commercial potential of technologies
SOVAR performs a thorough assessment process in order to provide researchers with a realistic market relevance of their technology.
The assessment evaluates the commercial potential of the technology and the targeted markets and includes considerations such as:
- Competitive edge of the proposed new technology
- IP protection potential
- Freedom to operate of the new technology
- Technical feasibility and scalability
- Market opportunities allowing profitable exploitation
2. IP protection
SOVAR offers support to researchers in intellectual property (IP) protection and management. In order to evaluate the strength of IP protection of a new technology, SOVAR’s team analyzes:
- existing patents and copyrights;
- related patents that can be cumbersome and limit the freedom to operate;
- patentability of the new technology and claims to be included in the patent application; and
- additional coverage through copyrights, industrial secrets, trademarks, etc.
If a new technology is the property of Université Laval or its affiliated hospital research centres, SOVAR works in close collaboration with the Vice-Rectorate for Research and Creation (VRRC). When technologies originate from other partners, SOVAR’s team interacts directly with qualified patent agents and external experts.
3. Designing credible demonstration projects
The work plan must be adequately structured to clearly demonstrate the commercial relevance of the technology. In collaboration with the researchers, SOVAR assists in defining the new technology’s competitive edge and in establishing realistic milestones of the development plan. More specifically, the work plan will comprise:
- products and services to develop in order of priority;
- steps (go/no go), milestones and timelines required to demonstrate technical and commercial feasibility;
- resources required and their availability;
- costs and other financial requirements;
- level and type of funding; and
- appropriate funding sources.
4. Identifying and obtaining funding
SOVAR supports researchers in identifying public and private funding sources and in preparing applications and requests for funding.
Financial requirements increase with each step in the development of a technology. SOVAR puts its expertise into play to optimize access to available financial sources (public, private and venture capital) for each phase of the project’s development.
SOVAR helps to :
- choose the relevant funding programs (Pop, Innov, PSVT, pre-seed funding);
- submit requests and coordinate with funding organizations;
- create start-up businesses to tap additional funding when appropriate; and
- negotiate with private or venture capital investors.
5. Demonstration of the technology’s commercial value
It is crucial to demonstrate the commercial value of a technology to stimulate the interest of industrial partners and investors.
In synergy with researchers, SOVAR spares no effort to initiate and support projects to demonstrate the commercial feasibility of a technology. SOVAR also contributes significantly to the management of projects ensuring at all times that the focus remains on the commercial outcome of the process.
As projects move forward, SOVAR interfaces with industry representatives, investors and venture capital companies to facilitate the transition toward commercialization. The main activities that comprise the demonstration of commercial feasibility are:
- project definition and launch;
- monitoring and follow-up;
- realignment when required; and
- financing or refinancing (start-up).
6. Transfer of expertise and technology
SOVAR collaborates closely with researchers and sponsors to select the appropriate transfer model as well as the licencing terms.
The new technology and related products and services, are then transferred to a company that will ensure its commercialization. The transfer is achieved through:
- licencing to an existing company;
- transfer of expertise to an existing company; or
- creation of a new company.
7. Structuring the management of spin-off companies
In cases where a spin-off company is created, SOVAR assists in identifying and recruiting an experienced management team to oversee its operation.
SOVAR’s preferred approach, also shared by investors, is to recruit an experienced management team during the pre-commercialization phase. This has the advantage of providing the fledgling company, at its inception, the skills and experience necessary to accelerate its growth and to make productive strategic decisions. Through this approach, SOVAR facilitates:
- the spin-off’s transition from the R&D phase to the pre-commercialization phase;
- the identification and recruitment of an experienced management team; and
- the identification of financing or refinancing sources.
8. Generating financial benefits for researchers
Through the support it provides SOVAR ensures that researchers reap equitable financial benefits as their technology is commercialized.
SOVAR monitors each project to ensure that researchers and their respective institutions receive direct financial benefits (royalties, equity participation in the spin-off or others). As appropriate, SOVAR will participate in meetings, planning sessions or board meetings usually as an observer. This type of support is required once:
- the responsibility for technical and commercial development and business management have been transferred; and
- royalties, IPO or sale of the company occurs (allowing researchers to get their share of benefits specific to each project).