Protecting, developing, marketing, manufacturing and commercializing new inventions is risky, costly and time consuming. Therefore, taking time to critically and objectively evaluate the commercial attractiveness of a new invention or technology before starting down a long commercialization road may help to mitigate risk and avoid common pitfalls. A few of the early questions considered by OTC when conducting a commercial feasibility analysis for a new invention include the following:

Scientific/Technical Merits

  • Is there a well-defined product or commercial application associated with the invention?
  • Is this an incremental improvement on existing technology or a compelling (“disruptive”) new technology?
  • Is the science at the foundation of the technology based on sound, supporting data?

Stage of development and Cost

  • Is there proof of principle or prototype that demonstrates validity of the concept or idea?
  • Are the timeframe and overall cost to productize and commercialize the invention reasonable?
  • Would the cost to manufacture the product be reasonable?

Utility (Unique Value Proposition)

  • Is the market problem or unmet need clearly defined and significant? (e.g, is need or problem recognized?)
  • Is this a grand solution to big problem, a big solution to a small problem or a solution similar to other product offerings?
  • Are competitive advantages of product significantly superior to other products or incrementally better?
  • Would the advantages be sustainable for a long period or short-lived?

Novelty, Obviousness, Breadth

  • Does the IP appear to be truly novel or differentiated? (Is it patentable?)
  • Is IP “non-obvious” (or is it a natural extension of other technologies or IP)?
  • Would patent claims be broad or narrow?

Commercial Viability

  • Who are the customers? (Who cares, how many care, and how much do they care?)
  • Are the customers’ unmet needs well-defined and recognized in the market?
  • Does the product address a large and growing market?
  • Is Industry structure favorable or highly competitive?
  • Is the “window of opportunity” for the product opening, closing, or waiting to happen…someday?
  • Is there one product or multiple future products associated with the technology? (If one product, how broad is its application?)

Commercialization

  • Are there prospective licensees or development partners? (Or has interest in the technology been expressed by industry partners or investors?)
  • Is the technology a foundation for sponsored research in your laboratory?
  • Is this technology broad and strong enough to support the launch of a new start-up enterprise?

Intellectual Property Overview

Creations of the mind (such as software or inventions) can, in some cases, be protected by securing intellectual property rights; that is, the right to keep others from reproducing those creations without permission. From the university’s perspective, those rights, once secured, can be licensed to other entities in exchange for appropriate compensation. In the United States, intellectual property rights are conferred through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). For more information, on intellectual property, visit their website.