Academic Scientists: Please Remember to Translate!

Completing your PhD and starting your new life is always a hectic endeavour filled with so many tasks it can make your head spin. Thus, you are probably filled to capacity with “useful” advice that’s accumulated over the years, but hopefully there’s a little space left for this to fit – as it may really impact your future as a scientist, as well as your earning potential.

I have found that many researchers, while doing incredible science, often overlook translational opportunities for their technologies. What I mean by this is that every project has the potential to be translated, or brought to market and put into practice. However, there are three key roadblocks in the academic community that can really limit the translation of ideas.

This tidbit of information comes from my experiences in a new translational group we have setup at Rutgers, called the Center for Innovative Ventures of Emerging Technologies (CIVET).

(Note: A civet is also a small mammal found around Asia, but those of us at Rutgers are of the walking homo-sapien variety.)

Three steps to translation:

  1. Disclosure. All ideas should be disclosed to your respective patent office first. Please, please do this prior to making posters, submitting journal articles etc. Once you give a public disclosure there is no going back to protect your idea.
  2. Perspective. As scientists, and I hate to admit this myself, we often look myopically at our ideas and inventions and think, “hell this is great – people are definitely going to buy this.”  To this note, try and find students or professors in the business school at your respective institutions to help you flesh out a business plan if you seriously want to try and translate your idea. This way you have the all important market assessment to see if your idea really is commercially viable.
  3. Probability. Remember that 1 in 10 startups make it. Thus, given that you have the bandwidth, try to nurture multiple ideas/opportunities – all disclosed to your tech transfer department, of course (see #1). Collaborations with other scientists and professors are also very fruitful for this.

These rules may seem self evident, but little attention is often given to this in the academic environ, to the ultimate detriment of the researcher. I realize there is a lot more involved in starting a company, as I try to translate myself, but these are three salient points that an be easily implemented early in your research.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me too. Now go out and make the big money.



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  1. How to Create an Elevator Pitch | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on August 17, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    […] Academic Scientists: Please Remember to Translate […]

  2. Career-related from Grad School to Job | BenchFly Blog

    wrote on December 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    […] Academic Scientists Remember to Translate – a few simple actions will help ensure that any relevant research or technologies may be readily translated to the marketplace […]

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