Commercializing Academic Research & Development: Three Success Factors

As more businesses move beyond adopting innovative cultures and processes, bleeding edge businesses are attempting to find new ways to maintain their innovative edge versus the global competition.

One way that today’s businesses are attempting to maintain their innovative lead are to tap directly into a primary source of future innovation academia. However, tapping into academic research can be extremely difficult particularly from a return on investment perspective. Numerous approaches have been attempted concerning the commercialization of academic research and development but it can be stated that today’s approaches can still be classified as “hit and miss” and doesn’t necessarily provide the consistency and predictability that businesses crave.

There are many reasons that commercialization of academic research is so difficult. These reasons include:

(1)    Different Fundamental Motivations: One can’t forget that the primary motivations behind operating a business and operating an academic institution are completely different. Businesses are established to maximize profitability in the production of goods and services. Academic institutions meanwhile are established to provide a safe and open environment for academic inquiry without the same financial pressure that businesses face.

(2)    Different Cultures: Businesses are designed to be results oriented and as such their culture is designed around that results based orientation such as the utilization of hierarchy to ensure productivity and efficiency in the production of goods and services. Academic institutions are the exact opposite. Their culture is designed for free flowing and open inquiry and discussion free from external restrictions whether these restrictions are political, cultural or economic in nature.

While all businesses and academic institutions are looking for a consistent and replicable framework, there are lessons that can be taken from today’s approaches that can be used to build new approaches to commercializing academic research. Businesses and academic institutions have learnt that there are three critical success factors that are needed for them to have a reasonable probability of achieving a mutually beneficial result:

(1)    Build Long Term Relationships: For businesses to get the results they are looking for from their academic partners, it is necessary to build long term relationships as the differences highlighted above need to be addressed and that requires a long journey of mutual cooperation. Transactions between university technology transfer offices and industry players typically include: sponsored research, licenses, spin-off firms, hiring students, and a degree of serendipity. Yet, a survey of technology transfer offices found that approximately 12% of technology that is licensed is ready for commercialization. As such, businesses must view academic institutions as long term partners where they need to invest significant resources into building the foundational frameworks to finally achieve the results they are looking for. It takes a significant amount of development and trial and error before an R&D investment finally pays dividends whether it is in reduced manufacturing costs or profitable sales.

(2)    Gain Trust: Trust is defined as “the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectation that the other party will perform a particular action to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control the other party”. This is particularly important when it comes to collaborating on technology development, as businesses and academic institutions expose themselves to a degree of risk as both parties are investing resources into the relationship. Taking the effort to build a high degree of trust between a business and an academic institution when discussing the commercialization of research improves the willingness of both parties to share information related to scientific requirements and outcomes enabling both parties to achieve more efficiently and quicker mutually beneficial results.


A crucial aspect of trust is the reputation of either the university or the firm. It is important to ask whether the university has a history of producing technological breakthroughs, and correspondingly, whether the firm has a reputation of successfully bringing disruptive technologies to market. Industry R&D teams and academics both must take their reputations into their own hands and build a track record that lends legitimacy and trust to their collaborations.

(3)    Produce Tangible Outcomes: At the end of the day, mangers at firms are likely to measure the success of an academic partnership by the number of tangible outcomes and revenue generated from a project. Getting academic institutions to be onboard with a greater focus on tangible results will require substantial investment for businesses. Whether it is providing employees to assist in educating researchers on how to develop business presentations and business cases or providing additional resources or facilities to move from theoretical to practical such as a prototyping lab, businesses will have to contribute an extensive amount of their knowledge and expertise to enable academic institutions to develop their skillsets to produce tangible results.

As the global economy continues to experience rapid and significant shifts and as businesses continue to find new ways to ensure innovation is a part of their culture and DNA, academic institutions will increasingly play a role in terms of market competitiveness and innovation. Both businesses and academic institutions are increasingly developing symbiotic relationships due to the pressures brought about by external macro-economic forces. However, it will be a long journey to build a sustainable culture and framework for academic research to be commercialized effectively due to cultural and motivational differences. That being said, there are a number of critical success factors that both businesses and academic institutions must proactively implement to improve the probability that their joint partnership yields results sooner than later.

CES 2015 – Recap

Overall the CES 2015 did not show any game changer innovation. However, this year we have seen many product categories which matured significantly over the past year. Especially the Internet of Things and Smart Home are close to become off the shelf mainstream solutions. The trend to make things smart and connected is unstoppable – we have seen anything from cars, bags, clothes and jars with a Wifi or mobile connection. This trend will continue and find its way from geeks and enthusiasts to mainstream adoptions. The major challenge of the IoT and Smart Home remains with ease of use, interoperability and standardization.

The wearables and smart watch category has seen a tremendous growth in terms of new products and services. However, the big innovation and most importantly value and use cases for end users are still missing. Most of the wearable vendors do not get their products right yet. At the CES there were more than 60 different smart watch models to try out, however most of them are either very similar without differentiator or lacking real value for users.

The trend around 3D printing continued as solutions became more professional, reliable and affordable. We will soon see real disruption in this space as the 3D printing community is heavily working on use cases, download able 3D models and off the shelf applications which are interesting for the tech interested early adopters. Lastly, robotics and sensors were the hidden champions of the CES 2015. In particular autonomous solutions and smart robotics for end consumer consumers were show cased by many vendors. In particular the (German) automotive industry was widely present in Las Vegas with autonomous driving, electro motors and connected in car entertainment and info systems. In particular Streaming Content products and services are an interesting and important trend for telecos to follow. At the CES many hardware and content providers announced new solutions e.g. Dish’s Sling TV service.


Internet of Things – The Internet of Things is finally materializing for consumers.

The Internet of Things has matured significantly over the past year. Vendors started to equip literally every device possible with connectivity (e.g. Wifi, mobile).The industry has finally established open standards to enable interoperability – e.g. the AllSeen Alliance and the Open Interconnect Consortium. The lines between different segments like Connected Home, Connected Car, Wearables etc. are fading away. The pace of innovation e.g. for new use cases is clearly driven by a significant amount of startups. However, large incumbents like Qualcomm, Microsoft, Panasonic, LG, Cisco, Bosch, Honeywell etc. started to integrate IoT features in their products and will defeat their footprints in their respective market segments.


What’s interesting?

The CES announcement of the first AllJoyn platform release will drive IoT adoption significantly as it will set standards on how to connect different IoT device classes and manage them with one open standard. Vendors are starting to integrate with different 3rd party solutions.

What still remains a question?

Simple IoT use cases can already adopted off the shelf with single vendor solutions – however, more complex use cases still remain hard to install and especially to configure. The industry needs to figure out how to increase the ease of use for installation and configuration before the Internet of Things can become reality for mainstream consumers. Different powerful consortiums drive different standardization approaches. Over the next 1-2 years these standards will compete for the market domination similar to the HD-DVD and Blu-ray standard war years ago


Interesting Product or Service Description Why is it interesting


Higgns is a new app that powers Qualcomm’s Internet of Everything. It allows users to build their own stories and stay in touch with their home appliances. The app gives real time alerts and shows them in an event list by allowing customers to choose which events are important and how the alert is send. It works for smart devices across manufacturers.


AllJoyn enables the connection of IoT devices and applications and focusses on the interoperability in IoT development. AllJoyn Gateway Agent claims to be best practice in remote access and management, security and data privacy, interoperability and use of open standards regardless of brand, transport, platform or operating system.
Smart Gateway Platform


The robust Smarthome platform supports connected devices, systems, applications and things for a richer consumer experience in the home. The gateway combines the latest Qualcomm technologies like IPQ, the Gigabit Wi-Fi, the intelligence of Qualcomm StreamBoost technology and an open app environment.
SmartThings Hub


The SmartThings Hub is the latest multi-protocol system to hit the fast-growing, do-it-yourself home-automation market. The hub is available with various sensors and switches and supports Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Wi-Fi wireless communications, as well as the popular and fun IFTTT (If This Then That) Internet service.


The idea of the Spark Photon is to give anyone an entry point into building connected devices while keeping the kind of options enterprise customers need The product, which is mainly a Wi-Fi development board for building connected devices, is very affordable by a price of only $19 and is so small that it comes in a matchbox.

Smart Home – The Smart Home market is extremely fragmented with plenty of smart devices for literally every solution possible – however many vendors still cannot provide satisfying value add with their devices.

Smart Home was one of the strongest trends on the CES this year. All established appliances and home electronics vendors presented their solutions for the fully connected home. Compared to last year more solutions are now starting to function as fully integrated solutions and interact with different device categories. Vendors now connect everything starting with the thermostat, fridge and even the light bulbs. The Smart Home segment is extremely crowded and fragmented. Players are coming from classical home appliance vendors, network infrastructure and chip vendors, an uncountable number of startups as well as the tech giants. Telcos like AT&T and some Asian providers also positioned themselves well with own platforms and connectivity offerings.

What’s interesting?

Even though standardization of the smart home eco system has started, the overall segment still remains very fragmented & chaotic. The overall smart home space is overhyped at the moment with too many vendors offering smart devices with little value to customers. Vendors still try to figure out their product market fit.

What still remains a question?

Standardization and interoperability still remains the main challenge for smart home vendors. Soon we will see a platform war of larger vendors competing of the dominance within the market. In the future the key will not be to have the best solution to connect a single appliance or object, but to provide a holistic smart home experience across all use cases and devices.

Interesting Product or Service Description Why is it interesting


UniKey’s Touch-to-Open technology affords secure access via your smartphone without removing it from your pocket or purse. UniKey licenses its technology to market leaders, including Kwikset for Kevo and MIWA for hotel industry.


The Ecovent system of wireless vents and sensors solves the problem of some rooms being too hot or too cold with control via smartphones. Works with your existing system by replacing floor, wall or ceiling vents and even works with smart thermostats like Nest.


Edyn is a smart gardening system that monitors and tracks environmental conditions to maximize plant health The system includes the Edyn Garden Sensor, Edyn Water Valve and Edyn App, which work together to review plant soil and make recommendations about what to plant, when to water and fertilize.


HugOne is the world’s first device to combine sleep and environment tracking for the family. It helps the entire family to sleep better and monitors temperature, humidity and air quality anywhere for a healthier home. It is simple and beautiful.


Myfox offers true home security and peace of mind through proactive deterrence – not just detection. With free Myfox applications, you can activate your alarm, monitor your home, control your shutters, lights, and heating remotely, and more…


Robotics & Sensors – Robotics has arrived for consumers in distinct applications, mainly driven by significant sensor improvements. However, regulations are limiting the adoption of autonomous applications yet.


Robotics has evolved significantly over the past years and consumer use cases become possible. Hence, many vendors have developed robots for home applications primarily to automate or simplify reoccurring tasks e.g. house cleaning. The progress within robotics was primarily possible due to innovations within MEMS sensors and mechanics innovations. Innovation in sensors and AI also drive the application of autonomously operating robots, cars and manufacturing robot. Key segments for consumer robots are in 2015: Smart Toys, Educational Robotic, Hobby Robots, Outdoor & Indoor Home Care Robots, Personal Robots, and Home Healthcare Robots. The market for sensors is primarily dominated by larger semiconductor vendors like Measurement Specialty, Invensense and NXP.

What’s interesting?

New generations of (home) robots are able to fulfil more complex tasks and operate increasingly fully autonomous with little human interaction. New MEMS based sensors enable complete new applications and use cases as well as extremely small implementations.

What still remains a question?

Machines make more and more decisions in the daily life – hence, especially for autonomous applications of robotics the main manufacturer challenge is less the technology but regulations and country specific policies. Many applications are already possible today which cannot be realized yet due to missing regulation. Only when vendors can be ahead of their QA efforts more complex and autonomous applications can be rolled out for mainstream users.

Interesting Product or Service Description Why is it interesting

Android –

Chihira Aico


Chihira Aico is a robot that looks like a human being and is developed for a wide assignment of tasks such as counsellor, newscaster, cheerleader or entertainer. Chihira Aico is designed for health care, where robots can assist in monitoring and diagnoses. Another utilization could be to serve as a kind of hostess for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Rapiro Robot Kit


Rapiro is an affordable and easy to assemble humanoid robot kit. It comes with 12 servo motors and an Arduino compatible controller board. Key advantages are that the robot is easy to assemble, works immediately, is programmable and customizable.
Virtuix Omni


Virtuix Omni has developed a first-of-its-kind virtual reality system which enables people to get immerse experiences while playing games. The Virtuix Omni allows people to stand up and walk around in the virtual environment while playing games to let the virtual environment more come to reality.


SENtrode is a development kit with both the hardware and software crucial for quick and easy product development of wearables and Internet of Things. Unlike other development kits, SENtrode is smartwatch-sized and includes all the necessary hardware components from different manufacturers on one small form-factor board.


Modular Robotics makes two robot construction systems for kids, one of them is Cubelets which lets kids build their own robots. Without wiring or programming, kids can easily build their own robots and acquire technical skills.


Streaming Content – The market for OTT services is expanding quickly due to the increasing number of customers who stream and upload videos. Businesses supporting those trends threaten Telcos, but there are also opportunities to catch up.

More and more people are opting for OTT content, especially online video streaming every day, cutting back on the cable expenses. There are new business models on the market that allow customers to live stream or to watch on demand from every device around the world. Users increasingly generate video content. Examples are sharing content on Facebook, uploading videos on Youtube or live recording of video security solutions.

What’s interesting?

The increase in streaming content reveals the need for more bandwidth and a bigger network capacity. The ability for mobile video consumption plays an important role since the demand for consumer video offerings increases and businesses are making mobile video streaming a “must have” requirement for communicating with their employees and customers.

What still remains a question?

Telcos have to think of strategies how to face the threats of the arising OTT landscape. Strategies vary from attacking over defending up to cooperating. An estimation of the future of OTT content is important for Telcos in order to make appropriate investments in the scaling of network capacity.

Interesting Product or Service Description Why is it interesting
Sling TV


Cheaper Over-the-Top (OTT) Internet TV service that provides live television over the internet, including channels like ESPN, Disney Channel or CNN. Priced at only $20US per month, the offering is targeted to millennials that do not get cable pay tv anymore. It has no contracts and is available for Xbox, Smart TVs, Smartphones, PC, Roku etc.
ACR Engage API


Cognitive Networks’ real-time services power Enhanced TV on Smart TVs by the Automatic Content Recognition technology. The real-time API enables television programmers and advertisers to synchronize entertaining, relevant applications with live or time-shifted content.


Spark provides Broadcasters and Advertisers advanced TV analytics and advertising solutions. Spark brings digital capabilities as targeting, personalization, interactivity and measurement to the scale and impact of broadcast television.


ActiveVideo virtualizes CPE functionality by moving the user interface into the cloud and anchoring it on HTML5. The technology makes it possible to reduce operational cost and time to market for pay-TV or online video services.
Muvika Karaoke


Muvika Karaoke is a karaoke streaming service with access to thousands of high quality karaoke songs. Muvika claims to be the first web based streaming service for karaoke. An optional box functions as a streaming player.

Berlin celebrates Startup Night

1More than 2,500 visitors attended the Lange Nacht der Startups (Long Night of the StartUps) in Berlin last Saturday. The event was hosted by Deutsche Telekom in cooperation with local partners and was the largest startup event of its kind in Europe. More than 100 innovative startups presented themselves and their products to consumers and professionals. The participating startups covered the areas of retail/commerce, communication, data analytics, entertainment, food/lifestyle, green/health/biotech, home, as well as security. It was the second Lange Nacht der StartUps after a successful premiere last year.

Continue reading “Berlin celebrates Startup Night”

How Future Homes Will Take Care Of Us

Picture21) The Internet of Things

The Internet of Thing’s impact on modern civilization is estimated to be at least as significant as that of the Internet’s, with countless use cases spanning from smart grid technologies and telematics to payment solutions, wearable technologies and smart home control systems. In 2003, the number of internet connected devices amounted to 500 M, while it is predicted to reach 18.5 B by 2022 (Machina Research 2013). Industry experts estimate that the market potential created by the Internet of Things will reach $19 T. One of the biggest applications of the Internet of Things will be the smart home, which will introduce an enormous amount of devices into carriers’ networks and fundamentally change the everyday life of people across the globe.


Continue reading “How Future Homes Will Take Care Of Us”

The Internet of Partnerships

Picture1At the moment, the “Internet of Things” (IoT) is being hyped as the next “big thing” – but this perception is outdated: the next big thing will be called Internet of Partnerships!

However, “outdated” does not necessarily mean “wrong”. Instead, IoT is undergoing a revolutionary development: it will become emancipated from the “things” it is based upon and provide value beyond the mere connection of physical assets. Soon, we will think of IoT as an ecosystem galaxy – with a scope that extends far beyond the current status of the “mobile ecosystem”, for example.

Partnerships will be the key value integrator in this new ecosystem. An evolutionary perspective on the IoT value chain serves to better understand the reasons for the increasing importance of partnerships.

Continue reading “The Internet of Partnerships”

Smart Luggage, Managing Platforms and Connected Cars – the role of telcos in M2M

With more than 18 billion connected devices and total revenues increasing from $200 billion to $1.2 trillion by 2022 (Machina Research, 2012), Machine-to-Machine communication, the automated exchange of information between mechanical or electronic devices without human interaction, is clearly becoming more important.

With this in mind, it is important to understand how telecoms are involved in providing the necessary connectivity for M2M-based solutions and what challenges they are dealing with.

Continue reading “Smart Luggage, Managing Platforms and Connected Cars – the role of telcos in M2M”

How the “Internet of Things” evolution will influence Smart Grid developments

The idea of energy grids overlaid by information and communication technology (ICT) connecting a grid’s components has been around for decades. Automated grid monitoring (e.g., by SCADA systems) was already introduced in the 1960’s and automated meter reading became possible in the 1970’s with the introduction of advanced metering infrastructure, which enabled the rollout of today’s smart meters. The smart grid development have since yielded a multitude of isolated “smart grid islands” around the globe, often times driven by specific problems that grid operators face in their control area – be it electrical energy theft in Italy or optimizing charging patterns of electric vehicle in China.

Continue reading “How the “Internet of Things” evolution will influence Smart Grid developments”

Why the Urban Shift is really happening: A Closer Look at Tech in the City

future cityWith Google’s new office in the Mission, Twitter’s headquarters in the Central Market district and Pinterest now operating out of SoMa’s warehouse quarter, it is evident that the Great Inversion is in full effect in San Francisco. The term, the Great Inversion, coined by author Alan Ehrenhalt, refers to cities and suburbs that have traded places over the last 30 to 40 years. This trend is considered the foundation for a further movement known as the Urban Shift in venture capital investment.  Historically, VC financing was highest in the rural suburbs such as Silicon Valley and Boston’s Route 128. Today, global cities like NYC, Boston, Cambridge (in the United States), London, Berlin and of course, San Francisco are actually receiving the bulk of the investment.

Continue reading “Why the Urban Shift is really happening: A Closer Look at Tech in the City”

Big Data Solutions for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

iStock_000020434651Small90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years
. So far, it’s mostly only large enterprises who can afford to hire teams of data scientists that have confronted the overwhelming task of analyzing the large volumes of data. However, more and more small and medium-sized businesses are increasingly trying to employ Big Data solutions to boost sales, increase efficiency and improve reporting quality, which can lead to better management decisions.
Continue reading “Big Data Solutions for Small and Medium Sized Businesses”

Why the Connected Car will Happen: Now

Conn car

The “connected car” has been a hot topic often featured in today’s press. It seems that every week a new story emerges featuring an automotive OEM, an operator’s latest initiative or a software industry player announcement. It is clear that many companies see growth and innovation opportunities in this field. But industry veterans might ask themselves if all of this activity represents yet more hype.

The automotive industry has already experienced a number of telematic cycles, however, the expected return on investment from the connected car has so far not materialized. The lack of adoption to date has meant that the industry, especially automotive OEMs, are still divided about the future potential for the connected car. In recent years, market and technological circumstances have substantially improved to receive the rise of the connected car.

We believe it is inevitable that the connected car will come to the mass market – and soon – first through a paired smartphone, then by embedded systems (on-board connectivity units or OBUs) which directly connect to the Internet.  Below are some of our thoughts behind the current evolution. Continue reading “Why the Connected Car will Happen: Now”