An invention disclosure is often the first step towards exploring the commercial potential of research results, but how can an invention be identified? Even if your idea or research result can't be patented, there are often other options available to commercialise your idea. Software is one such good example. Here you can find answers to the most common questions about inventions and commercialisation. Please explore our website and contact us to help identify the best solution for your commercialisation case.
How to commercialise your idea?
What are the benefits of commercialisation? Would it not be better just to publish the results? What do I need to commit to, if I wish to commercialise my idea or invention?
The idea of commercialising research raises many questions. The publication and commercialisation of research results are often pitted against each other as if they were mutually exclusive options. In reality syncronising publication with commercialisation support each other and add value and significance to the research results. Both are highly useful, particularly when applying for international funding.
Commercialisation provides funding for research and benefits the world around us.
Research results that form the basis for commercialisation can normally be freely published as soon as a patent application is filed to the patent authorities. Well prepared application provides required protection to the relevant intellectual property rights. For optimal timing, contact us as early as possible, ideally in good time before submitting your article for publication.
AN INVENTION IS USEFUL ONLY IF IT IS USED
The results of universities are increasingly measured by the number of patents they produce. Because the purpose of academic research is to produce knowledge and solutions for the benefit of all, the results must be easily exploitable rather than remain in the hands of a small academic community. The commercialisation process explores opportunities to use the invention in different arenas.
In addition to providing independent insight, your invention can provide the missing link needed for a technology, medication or application developed elsewhere and, thus, lead to great strides in the field. This is yet another reason why inventions should always be disclosed.
WHAT IS AN INVENTION?
When your insight makes your colleagues wonder why they did not come up with the same idea, you have probably discovered something significant. According to the Foundation for Finnish Inventions, an invention is a new, surprising and practicable solution to a problem.
Your invention can be a new product, service, method or a combination of them. It can also be an improvement to an existing product, service or method, or it can apply an established technology in a novel way. Crucially, the invention must be realisable, and have a clear need and demand for the solution it offers.
You can assess the novelty value of your idea by comparing it to previously published patents and patent applications in the following patent databases. Free to use databeses include the likes of: www.prh.fi, www.uspto.gov and www.espacenet.com.
DISCLOSE YOUR INNOVATION WITHOUT DELAY
When you think you have created an invention, you should report it to us as soon as possible by submitting an invention disclosure. University staff is also obligated to disclose their inventions under the Act on the Right to Inventions Made at Higher Education Institutions (No 369/2006), but an invention disclosure is particularly worthwhile as it ensures that your invention will receive appropriate attention and consideration.
If your invention proves to be commercially interesting and protectable, preparation for its commercialisation can begin. The stages of this process include identifying potential customers and markets, which may lead to licensing or the establishment of a new company.
The aim is to develop the invention to a marketable form. Because the University will bear the responsibility for funding the commercialisation, this is a unique opportunity that should not be missed.
If you are unsure whether you have made an invention that can be commercialised, please send us a short description of your idea and we will contact you about it. Of course, we will handle your message in the strictest of confidence.
After receiving an invention disclosure, we set out to investigate whether the research underlying the invention constitutes open or contractual research. The rights to an invention made through open research belong to the researcher, while those of an invention made through contractual research belong to the University. In the case of contractual research, we also explore what contractual commitments are potentially involved in the ownership of the research results and how interesting the invention is from a commercial standpoint.
Assessing commercial interest in the invention is important, as this assessment provides the basis for deciding whether to protect and modify the invention to meet market needs. If the rights to the invention belong to the University and it decides to retain those rights, the University must inform the inventor of this within six months of receiving an approved invention disclosure.
In retaining the rights to the invention, the University bears the responsibility for commercialising the invention and pays the costs of protecting it. From the researcher’s perspective, this is an ideal situation because he or she can participate in the further development of the invention and in related research without shouldering the costs. In such cases, 35% of the net proceeds from the invention resulting from its commercialisation automatically go to the researchers.
THE RIGHTS CAN BE ASSIGNED TO THE UNIVERSITY
Researchers who hold the intellectual property rights to an invention under the Act on the Right to Inventions Made at Higher Education Institutions can choose to assign those rights to the University. This is often advantageous to individual researchers because commercialisation and its preparation require resources that few have.
If the University decides to accept the rights offered to it, the University will pay the cost of preparations for commercialisation as well as the commercialisation itself. Again, the researchers are entitled to 35% of the net proceeds from commercialising the invention. In addition, the researcher benefits from the University bearing the financial risk for preparing the commercialisation.
COMMERICIALICING AND PROTECTING AN INVENTION
Despite their commercial potential, innovations created through research are usually no more than observations that require extensive further development before becoming commercially viable. This commercialisation process involves examining the invention from several perspectives, which may open up unexpected opportunities for application.
A patent provides exclusive rights to a new technology, which is a prerequisite for selling or licensing an invention. Not all ideas can be patented, however. Business ideas, teaching methods, games and computer software, for example, must be protected differently.
If your invention proves to be commercially valuable, it should be protected so as to prevent copying and to derive financial benefit. Our staff are familiar with the different stages of the commercialisation process and are happy to help you protect your idea or advise you on licensing issues.
COMMERCIALISATION OF SOFTWARE
Software cannot usually be patented in Finland, but it can be protected under copyright. Even so, the solution or method that the software implements may be patentable.
The software commercialized path generally progresses faster than other areas of technology, as the prototype often develops in parallel with the investigation. Consequently, copyright issues should be established at an early stage of development. If several persons have participated in developing software, it is important to ensure that copyrights are appropriately shared.
COMMERCIALISATION OF COMPETENCE IN THE HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
Innovations related to health care, education and learning can be protected by converting the knowledge or competence into an easily distributable format. Such packaging can be compared to a TV format, in which a recognisable concept and brand are created for a product. The format can be a game or a mobile application, for example. In such cases, the product or its parts can be protected under trademark and copyright, which prohibits copying and brings commercial benefit to its developer.
The most important ideas often arise in the course of long-term basic research. Because the commercial value of such ideas depends on how well they meet market demand, interaction with companies and other partners is vital. However, you do not have to do everything yourself; this is where we can help you.
Last autumn TUTL funding was granted to four groups of researchers who all took part in our preparation process. During the previous years success rate of applicants who have entered to our process has been equally convincing, compared to other applicants.
FUNDING REQUIRES PREPERATION FOR COMMERCIALISATION
When preparing to commercialise an invention, additional research and testing are often needed to achieve commercial objectives. The Tekes TUTL (Tutkimusideoista uutta tietoa ja liiketoimintaa, or “New knowledge and business from research ideas”) application process, which takes place twice a year, offers preparatory funding for commercialising the results of academic research.
The objectives of the Tekes TUTL funding process include identifying the target market for the idea or invention and verifying its commercial viability with, for example, a prototype or pilot. Compared to many other forms of funding, TUTL funding enables testing the applicability of, and interest in, the invention or idea within the corporate context in a comparatively risk-free manner before the product or service takes on its final form.
CRITERIA FOR FUNDING
Tekes provides TUTL funding for fixed terms of one or two years, which is usually enough to complete the support measures aimed at commercialisation and to prepare the action plan that follows. In the case of particularly demanding projects, funding can be extended beyond the end of the fixed period.
One of the requirements for funding is that at least 40% of the funding go to prepare for commercialisation of the research. Tekes provides 70% of the funding, while the remaining 30% comes from the University of Helsinki unit that represents the research field in question.
REGISTER FOR THE PREPARATION PROCESS
In the application process for funding under the TUTL scheme, we cooperate with Tekes and receive the University of Helsinki registrations together with the University’s Research Affairs. Application takes place through a preparatory process that we organise and which aims to increase the likelihood of obtaining funding through the collaborative editing of the applications in order to comply with Tekes requirements. We also offer assistance in preparing the project and presenting the invention or idea to Tekes.
In addition to receiving personal assistance, you will attend two sessions to help prepare you to deliver your sales pitch. A Tekes representative will also comment on the presentations at the second session, thereby helping participants put the finishing touches on their application. The preparatory process significantly improves opportunities to obtain funding.
New knowledge and business from research ideas – call for research funding applications closes 9th of March 2017.
More information in Flamma https://flamma.helsinki.fi/en/TEKES/HY306815.
Successful commercialisation and entrepreneurship require specialist knowledge and a wide range of expertise. It is important that the commercialisation process involve those with expertise in the content and specifics of research as well as those who can view the issues from the perspective of business development.
Participation in a commercialisation process does not require previous experience of entrepreneurship or business development. We will set up a fully qualified team of experts to support your project by considering its special needs and the requirements of the relevant sector.
The commercialisation process step-by-step
A new idea or invention emerges from university research. The insight that your research may help redress a concrete need or problem may come from discussions with us or from meetings with companies and entrepreneurs.
After receiving your invention disclosure or informal description of your idea we will assess the commercial potential of your invention. We will also establish whether the rights to the invention belong to the researcher or the University. If university owns the rights it will start to develop inventions that are estimated to have commercial potential.
Protecting an idea or patenting an invention
If your invention proves to be commercially interesting and patentable, we will prepare a patent application together with a patent agent. Your participation in this stage is very important for protecting the essence of the invention. Once the application has been submitted, the research results underlying the invention can usually be freely published. Ideas and competence cannot be patented, but can often be protected, for example, under copyright.
Planning business activities
The value of an invention can be increased by further refining and adjusting it to meet market needs. Tekes TUTL funding can be applied for this stage of the process. We can help you locate potential customers and negotiate contracts. If your idea emerged as a result of discussions or corporate cooperation, your customers or “commercialiser” may already exist. In that case, our task is to refine your idea for its future market. In business planning we are actively involved in all stages on commercialisation including preparation, supervision and implementation.
Entering the market
The commercialisation process becomes concrete through licensing or the establishment of a company. A patent or other protection is only a tool for determining the value of the innovation. In corporate cooperation, such protection serves as a commodity in that the partner company receives a concrete benefit in return for its investment. The purpose of commercialising an idea or competence is to convince the purchasing company to want to benefit from the idea or competence in the future through, for example, research cooperation.
LegalAdvisor ProBono is a web service where university based start-up companies can apply and receive free legal counseling for the support of their business. Legal assistance is provided by the Finnish law offices and IP specialist agencies. Service is primarily for the pre-seed stage companies. HIS isn´t involved in LegalAdvisor and doesn´t therefore take responsibility for the service.
The Act on the Right in Inventions made at Higher Education Institutions obliges university employees to report any inventions to their employer without delay. Filing an invention disclosure is the first step in the path of commercialising an invention or idea.
We handle all invention disclosures behalf of the University of Helsinki with strict confidentiality.
Do you have an idea for how your research could benefit society, but not a tangible invention? Commercialising it may still be possible. Announce your ideas with the forms below.
Read The Act on the Right in Inventions
Read the invention guidelines and the policy for the commercialisation of research results
Download the invention disclosure form below, save it to your computer, and send it to us as an email attachment. You can also print the disclosure and post it to us. Remember to include copies of all existing commitments / contracts, if relevant (examples include previous patent applications or non-disclosure agreements).
Download the forms