The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is starting an internal accelerator program for inventors who work at the institution, with the goal of picking a first group of five to eight prospective entrepreneurs around May.
The accelerator, which UT Health is calling TechNovum, will run its first program from June through October and will conclude with two days of presentations for the researchers to pitch the products they’ve developed. The program will include training on market validation, developing a business plan, and mentoring on making a pitch to investors, among other training.
TechNovum is going to be operated as a part of UT Health’s office of technology commercialization, which will take applications from inventors whose products have already gone through the office’s standard validation process. When a UT Health faculty member alerts the office of an invention that has potential to be commercialized, the office runs the product through 12 weeks of analysis—both product and market validation called a technology management report—to help the inventor and university determine if they might want to license the invention or maybe develop a startup out of it.
Inventors who get a favorable report will be eligible for the accelerator, said John Gebhard, the assistant vice president for the commercialization office. John Fritz and Sean Thompson, who both work out of the commercialization office with a focus on bringing inventions to market, will be co-directors of the accelerator. The program is an effort to formalize business, marketing, and entrepreneurial training that the office previously did on an ad-hoc basis, Fritz said during an interview yesterday at the university.
“Doing this is more efficient than what we’ve had to do, which was more one-on-one, individual mentoring,” Fritz said.
Because most of the inventions are so early stage, the accelerator may focus on different subjects than other accelerators for more advanced companies, such as Houston’s TMCx for health IT and medical devices, Techstars on the tech side of the startup world, or incubators like JLabs. San Antonio has other accelerator and startup programs, including a couple run by VelocityTX, which operates a “pre-accelerator” and another accelerator for international companies considering a move to the US, neither of which are solely focused on life sciences.
TechNovum will use a curriculum developed by business coach Wendy Kennedy (VelocityTX uses the same curriculum), which aims to help potential entrepreneurs figure out things like market fit and competitive edge. Fritz said the TechNovum will offer additional mentorship on issues specific to UT Health researchers who are developing products related to life sciences, such as manufacturing and quality control, regulatory matters, reimbursement, and partnering a product.
UT Health also plans to bring in outside mentors from the business community to talk to the group of researchers whose products are picked for the accelerator. Thompson, the other co-director, said the accelerator is an effort to make practical use out of research done by faculty at the university.
“There’s some people who might get bothered about this focus on commercialization,” Thompson said during the interview at the commercialization office. “Basic research is absolutely necessary, but research by itself, alone, has never saved anyone’s life. It’s the use of what you learn from that basic research and the application of that that is really most important.”