October 18-20 | Tucson, AZ

The Research Institution GAP Fund and Accelerator Program Summit

5 lessons for academic founders swapping the lab bench for the boardroom | Sifted

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

Acareer in science no longer just means lab work, research papers and publishing in journals. More and more, scientific talent is entering tech by commercialising research and launching companies in everything from AI and quantum to drug discovery and carbon capture.

But that brings with it its own challenges. Scientifically minded academics are usually more technical and less entrepreneurial than your typical startup founder.

As one of the cofounders of Omini, a company focused on diagnostic testing with portable blood tests, I’ve encountered the challenges academic founders face when swapping bench work for benchmarks. Here’s what I’ve learnt, and the lessons other inventor-founders can take away.

Finding and negotiating for lab space

When you’re a conventional lab spinout — created by an academic founder commercialising research out of a specific institution — the project usually matures long enough in the lab, then once the prototype is ready the company is spun out and born.

Our scenario was atypical. I met my cofounder Anna Shirinskaya through Entrepreneur First Paris and neither of us had remaining bonds with our universities when we started Omini. So when it came to finding lab space we needed to fight our way to sign a collaboration deal with Anna’s university to be able to work there. You need to approach these negotiations by:

  • Coming to the table with relevant arguments as to why it’s beneficial for the university to welcome you (shared IP, notoriety, etc);
  • Getting informed beforehand on the different deals you can strike with the university, and what’s fair and common practice;
  • Staying amiable and patient, and having researchers who are allies and willing to support your case;
  • Keeping in mind bureaucracy and the time it takes to move things forward in academia. Things can be slow, so have a plan B.


Full story: 5 lessons for academic founders swapping the lab bench for the boardroom | Sifted

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