Conference Report 2015: Topical issues - Marketing

Tricia Latter, Head of RVC Enterprise at Royal Veterinary College and member of the PraxisUnico Board (pictured) reports back on this session led by Jane Muir, RTTP, Associate Director, University of Florida and Immediate Past President, AUTM and facilitated by Iain Thomas, Head of Life Sciences, Cambridge Enterprise.

Pro-active marketing is critical to dramatically increase KEC success, as measured by, amongst other measures, number of transactions. Marketing is easier for some than others, since some individuals are inhibited by perceiving it as boastful rather than providing information.

The importance of being able to

(i) articulate the value proposition clearly and concisely and;

(ii) maximise frequency and reach were both emphasised. An important marketing tool is a one-page (two sided) flyer, that clearly presents the unique value proposition: a ‘what’s in it for me’ summary for a customer, rather than a description of the technology; backed with a biography and picture of the academic originator.

University of Florida engages students – screened by a test-writing exercise of this type – to prepare these sheets. The university uses these in targeted marketing campaigns to potential customers and also asks the originator of the technology to distribute them, if and when they are presenting, and approached by industry.

The group discussed the value of sector-specific partnering events, such as Bio, with the caveat that such events are costly and target companies may fail to accept your meeting requests. This risk can be mitigated by creating a strong brand and, especially, by offering clearly defined value propositions at all stages of engagement.

The group also discussed value of good internal marketing communications: University of Florida produces a bi-monthly newsletter, a calendar of commercialisation success stories, featuring the relevant faculty members and an annual awards event to celebrate those successes. A Vice Chancellor’s clear support for KEC as mission-critical cannot be underestimated.

The discussion also covered recognition of feedback from marketing: if the campaign fails to attract interest, it may be because the technology is too early stage and/or will not satisfy commercial requirements. This can, of course, be used as a guide for abandoning patent-spend.

The final major point of discussion was on growing one’s network to identify industry partners. It was acknowledged that this takes time, but the value of PraxisUnico to identify new contacts was also noted. Universities are seldom in direct competition and KEC professionals are almost always happy to share suggestions for appropriate contacts and possible customers.

The session closed with a strong parting message to make the most of the cumulative knowledge of your PraxisUnico colleagues.