Technology Commercialization, Part 1: Setting up your Idea Filtering System

University of Rochester

New ideas based on high-technology research have a high failure rate because they hit the ground running with lopsided priorities and misalignments. Students complete this course with an Innovation Creed (“Why are you doing this?”) and a customized Idea Filter (“Are you working on the right priorities?”)—2 simple tools that steer concept-stage commercialization to success.

This course is applicable to anyone in any setting who wants to improve their ability to generate winning entrepreneurial ideas and shape them for success.

While the course nomenclature will align most directly to high-technology for-profit new product ideas, its content is also applicable to all types of entrepreneurs, engineers, technology transfer offices, garage start-up companies, venture capital firms, angel investors, low-tech-no-tech ideas, not-for-profit ideas, lifestyle businesses, and social entrepreneurship.

Launching an engineered product based on hard-science, research, and patents takes an average of 3 to 5 years with $5 to $10 million dollars at stake.  Hard-science technology products are profoundly different than information technology products, such as websites and apps, e.g., that can be prototyped in a weekend, tested with little risk of death or destruction, and easily improved or pivoted with software revisions.

Given the time and money involved, the exponentially ratcheting costs of changes, and an often-underrepresented appreciation of critical market factors, the commercialization process for R&D-based ideas deserves a front-end framework.

Despite this obvious rationale, the road of startup companies and new products is littered with failures because the idea had no rudder during the early concept stage.  Given the complexity of possible offerings, a general enthusiasm for certain priorities and disregard for others; lack of discussion around the purpose of the undertaking; little consideration for how success will be measured; and a natural tendency to avoid obstacles, a team often jumps in over enthusiastically toward a commercial market, spending months (or years) and thousands of dollars (or millions) committed to a pathway that latter turns out to be stunted by “obvious” shortcomings.

In this course, we will delve into the most fundamental question every entrepreneur should ask themselves right up front: “Why am I doing this?” The need for an Innovation Creed applies to any scenario: from garage start-up to new product development to radical business development to mergers and acquisitions.  

While the subtleties of failures are infinite, the general categories are quite small.  Sixteen top challenges stunting technology commercialization will be presented and then built into an Idea Filter that helps force-rank a portfolio of ideas, screen ideas for strong and weak points, prioritize next critical action, and shape ideas to maximize their chance of success and alignment with the Creed.


Week One
•    Welcome to the technology commercialization revolution!
•    Foundational starting point: Your Innovation Creed

Week Two
•    Top reasons why commercializing technology is so difficult

Week Three
•    Turning those challenges into an Idea Filter

Week Four
•    Customizing Your Idea Filter: the best ideas for your particular Creed
•    Examples of various Filters for differing dimensions of Creed
•    A sneak-peak at Part Two: Using the Filter to Optimize Ideas for Success.

Recommended Background

No formal pre-requisites. 

You do not need “ideas” to participate; actual idea screening will not occur in this course (that is the focus of Part 2). Nonetheless, having a collection of new business and/or new product ideas in the back of your mind will be helpful.

Additionally, the following is recommended: 

Background knowledge in hard-science, engineered products: pharmaceuticals and biologics; implantable and disposable medical devices; laboratory, hospital and industrial equipment; military systems; telecommunication and computer hardware; traditional and alternative energy products; etc.

A general working knowledge of (or desire to learn more about) such things as: the process behind new product development; improving the concept stage of ideas;  portfolio management; managing creative thinking; tools for problem-solving and decision-making; etc.

Suggested Readings

There is no required or suggested prerequisite reading needed to understand the course content.

Course Format

The class will consist of lecture videos, which are between 8 and 12 minutes in length. These contain 1 integrated quiz question per video. There will also be exercises and activities that are submitted as well as online quizzes.
  • 1 November 2014, 4 weeks
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  • Language: English Gb


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