Getting Started

1. What is the first step to commercializing my innovation?

Please disclose your innovation to Venture Partners at CU Boulder by completing an Invention Disclosure Form or Copyrighted Material Submission Form.

2. Where can I get commercialization advice?

After you disclose your innovation to Venture Partners, you will be assigned a case manager that will meet with you to discuss your innovation, available resources, and a commercialization strategy.  Additionally, you can obtain advice from the Faculty Innovation Ambassadors, from Venture Partners’ Entrepreneurs in Residence, and/or at a Commercialization Academy event.

3. Can I work with Venture Partners at CU Boulder if I am at another University of Colorado campus?

Yes – If you are a researcher at UCCS or you are at CU Denver and have a physical science or engineering innovation, you will work with Venture Partners at CU Boulder.  Researchers at the Anschutz Medical campus and researchers at CU Denver with biomedical innovations will work with CU Innovations.

Developing Your Innovation

1. How can I learn more about commercializing innovations?

Venture Partners at CU Boulder has developed the Commercialization Academy, a dedicated program to educate and train university researchers wanting to commercialize their work.  As a year-round program, there are always opportunities to engage and start your commercialization journey.

2. Where can I get mentorship?

Please ask your case manager or Venture Partners’ Commercialization Network Director about matching up with one of our mentors. The Commercialization Network is a group of over 100 active business advisors and Entrepreneurs in Residence who volunteer their time to help CU Boulder researchers commercialize their innovations.

3. How do I get funding for my innovation?

In most cases, further technical development and business model refinement are needed before an innovation is ready for licensing or startup formation.  The most popular sources of funding for this development are:

  • Lab Venture Challenge.  CU Boulder’s competition for commercialization grants.  Compete for $125,000 grants plus participation in the Research-to-Market (R2M) mini-accelerator.
  • Advanced Industries Accelerator.  Compete for proof-of-concept grants of up to $150,000 from the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT).  A partial match (1:3) is required.
  • Kairos Ventures.  Through a formal partnership and matching funds from Venture Partners at CU Boulder, Kairos offers $125,000 gifts to labs with strong startup prospects.  Your case manager can tell you more.
  • I-Corps.  Employ the lean launchpad methodology to build a viable business thesis and model.  I-Corps grants are available through NSF and NIH.

Intellectual Property

1. Will Venture Partners at CU Boulder patent my invention?

By creating market exclusivity, patents can be an essential part of innovations becoming viable business opportunities.  Venture Partners at CU Boulder obtains patents to support the commercialization of university innovations.  Patents will be pursued where there is a partnering company (startup or established), and if a partnering company is not yet present, Venture Partners has a finite patent budget that is allocated to the innovations with the highest commercial potential.  We will help you identify what resources and milestones are needed to provide a strong case for patenting and commercialization (see Question 4 for more information).

2. How competitive is the process of obtaining patent funding from Venture Partners at CU Boulder?

Venture Partners at CU Boulder receives approximately 160-190 new inventions each year.  Our patent budget allows us to file U.S. provisional patent applications on about 50 percent of these inventions.  After the U.S. provisional application, further non-provisional applications and prosecution are needed prior to patent issuance.  This is where costs increase, and do so in an exponential manner if protection is sought in multiple countries.  In the absence of a company that licenses the patent rights (the company then pays for patent costs), Venture Partners is able to fund U.S. patents through to issuance for about 20 percent of the inventions we receive.  In the cases of the very highest commercial potential, Venture Partners may pursue international patents prior to securing a licensee company.  The optimal strategy is to build commercial attractiveness as quickly as possible while patent costs are lower, and then license to an existing company or create a startup.  Venture Partners will help you identify the steps that will build value and secure competitive patent funding, licensees, and/or startup funding for your innovation (see Question 4 for more information).

3. How does Venture Partners at CU Boulder make patent decisions?

Venture Partners will always pursue patent rights where dedicated funding is available, such as reimbursement from a company licensing the innovation, or Lab Venture Challenge funds.  In absence of external funding, Venture Partners will fund patents for innovations with the highest commercial potential and viability.  This is a competitive process among the inventions received by Venture Partners.  The specific criteria include:

  • Value proposition (does the invention solve a problem that is important to customers?)
  • Competitive advantage over existing solutions
  • Market validation (what feedback/traction has there been with potential users of the innovation?)
  • Likelihood of patentability (novelty, non-obvious, reduced to practice) and freedom to operate (doesn’t infringe others’ patents)
  • External vetting (for example, commercialization competition outcomes/feedback)
  • Technology readiness (how close to commercial utilization is the technology?)

Complete answers to these criteria are rarely available immediately, but the more information the better.  At the provisional patent application stage, stringency on these criteria is low.  A provisional patent application provides a year to make progress in these areas.  Venture Partners will show you how to make this progress (see next Question).  Then, as the expense rapidly increases during the years following provisional patent application, a heightened stringency is applied to these criteria. 

4. How can I develop my invention toward the criteria for patent investment?

Venture Partners at CU Boulder has specific resources designed to help your innovation fulfill the criteria in Question 3, above.  These include:

  • Commercialization Academy.  By hosting seminars and workshops focusing on customer discovery, company formation, pitching, and what investors want, the Commercialization Academy helps researchers build value into their innovations.  Sessions range from 1-hour lunch & learn to multi-week programs.
  • Lab Venture Challenge. This is CU Boulder’s competition for commercialization grants.  Compete for $125,000 grants plus participation in the Research 2 Market mini-accelerator.
  • Kairos Ventures.  Through a formal partnership and matching funds from Venture Partners at CU Boulder, Kairos offers $125,000 gifts to labs with strong startup prospects.  Your case manager can tell you more.
  • Commercialization Network.  Business advisors and Entrepreneurs in Residence are available to help build a commercialization strategy.  The Commercialization Network hosts regular events to pair innovators and advisors.  Whether you are just looking for early feedback or a CEO for your startup, the Commercialization Network can help you connect with experts in the community.
  • Innovation Readiness LevelTM.  Venture Partners at CU Boulder will assess your innovation’s current level, and what steps are needed to advance, using this tool developed by KTH Innovation out of Stockholm, Sweden.
  • IN-PART.  Through Venture Partners’ partnership with IN-PART, your innovation will be featured to hundreds of companies, opening opportunities for feedback and licensing.

You can also find value-building resources outside Venture Partners, including:

  • I-Corps.  Employ the lean launchpad methodology to build a viable business model.  I-Corps grants are available through NSF and NIH.
  • SAGE Boulder.  Present your startup idea to a group of local business advisors who will provide feedback and volunteer time to help you take the next step toward spinning out.  Contact Susan Strong susan@innosphere.org.
  • Innosphere.  An accelerator specifically-designed for science-based startups, Innosphere provides entrepreneurial education, advisors, access to capital, connections to startup service providers, and introductions to strategic corporate partners.
  • Catalyze CU.  CU Boulder’s equity-free accelerator, Catalyze CU is a summer-long startup accelerator that combines mentorship, funding, and a dedicated co-working space.
  • Advanced Industries Accelerator.  Compete for proof-of-concept grants of up to $150,000 from the Office of Economic Development and International Trade.  A partial match (1:3) is required.
  • SBIR/STTRSmall Business Innovative Resource (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) provide grant funding to your startup to advance technology with high potential for commercialization.  Awards typically range from $150,000-$200,000 in Phase I and $600,000 to $2,000,000 in Phase II.

Licensing Your Innovation

1. How can I find a licensee for my innovation?

Company contacts through research collaborations, conferences and personal connections often serve as the primary source of licensees.  Customer discovery programs through the Commercialization Academy will also get you out of the lab and talking with companies.  In addition, your case manager at Venture Partners will help you assess when your innovation is ready to market directly to companies, and will then bring in our Business Development Associate for outreach efforts.

2. I want to form a startup. How do I license my innovation into my startup?

Please see our licensing page to learn about a no-cost exclusive option period, and subsequent licensing.

3. How are licensing terms determined?

Venture Partners at CU Boulder has access to databases with terms from over 1000 university licensing deals.  We will transparently share with prospective licensees the market average for licenses within a specific technology area and offer terms that are significantly below average.

Within the Licensing with EASETM program for startups, licensing terms have been vetted and pre-negotiated with startup investors and law firms that represent university startups.

Revenue Sharing

1. As an innovator, will I receive a share of the university’s revenue from licensing my innovation?

Yes.  When Venture Partners licenses an innovation, the university may receive revenue in return, in the form of royalties, fees, and/or liquidated equity.  This is true for licenses to both established companies and startup companies.  After direct patent expenses are recovered, and any joint owners of the innovation receive their share, revenue is distributed as follows:

  • 25 percent to inventor(s)/creator(s), personally
  • 25 percent to the lab(s) of the inventor(s)/creator(s)
  • 25 percent to the Chancellor; currently this is used to fund applications to the Lab Venture Challenge and other commercialization grants/gifts
  • 25 percent to Venture Partners at CU Boulder to fund education, mentorship, patent, and funding resources for campus innovators
2. Are there tax implications for receiving royalties?

The IRS has issued a Technical Advice Memorandum (TAM) that may have a significant impact on income tax reporting for royalty payments received by faculty inventors. The university provides a Form 1099 each year to faculty receiving these payments.

Conflicts of Interest

1. What is the process for managing potential conflicts of interest if I want to consult for a company or start my own company?

Make sure to include relevant details of your consulting and/or startup in your DEPA.  A separate memorandum of understanding (MOU) may also be needed.  For guidance and questions, please contact Pam Rosse in Conflicts of Interest and Commitment (COIC) Pamela.Rosse@colorado.edu

Add the Standard Addendum for Consulting and Third Party Employment to your consulting agreement or employment agreement with the company.  This addendum ensures that your third party activities do not conflict with your obligations to the university.