August 4, 2009
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I joined the NCET2 webinar of Edward Roberts’ presentation last week — “Entrepreneurial Impact: The Role of MIT” — to see what I could glean for Toronto’s benefit as we work toward creating a more entreprenuerial environment on University Ave.
The webinar homepage has the audio of the talk and a link to the slides.
Some of the most interesting bits to me were:
- Literal tech transfer is a very small part of the innovation ecosystem: although 30 startup firms got licenses from the MIT tech licensing office (TLO) in 2000, over 1,000 companies were started up by MIT alumni that year.
- The benefit of immigration: “~30% of foreign‐student alumni become entrepreneurs vs. ~20% of U.S.‐born alumni; half of the foreign‐student entrepreneurs remain in the U.S.” Roberts suggests a selection bias (the act of emigrating for school is itself entrepreneurial), but the take-away remains that these immigrants are good at creating jobs and we should encourage as many as possible to stay.
- Suggestions for other institutions:
- Institutional leadership and senior role models are required.
- Remove barriers to entrepreneurship in rules and regs.
- Consider supplemental incubator resources or even seed funding directly from universities.
- Engage alumni.
- Build internal entrepreneurship education programs, with integrated academic and practitioner faculty participants.
- Hold business plan competitions.
- Realign tech transfer offices: fewer lawyers, more project managers.*
- The value of VC alumni — although it’s not what you might expect — data from China suggest that connections will get a meeting with VCs but will not affect investment decisions.
*Note: A slip of the tongue, or an easy scapegoat: as Roberts no doubt knows, the best lawyers are excellent project managers.
June 1, 2009
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Rafi Hofstein has joined MaRS Innovation as its new CEO. He was previously the President and CEO of Hadasit Ltd., the technology transfer company of the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, and since 2005, Chair of Hadasit BioHolding Ltd. (TASE: HBL). In this role, he oversaw:
the commercialization of intellectual property emerging from the Hadassah Medical Organization, clinical trials with industry partners, as well as the launch, development and strategic oversight of a series of medical devices, biomedicine and diagnostic equipment spin-off companies.
He has Ag experience too, having been the Vice President Business Development for Ecogen, Inc., a subsidiary of Monsanto. He was also at the helm of Mindsense Biosystems, and has his Ph.D. from Weizmann.
Well, Dr. Hofstein, welcome to Canada and to our little University Avenue (and Bay Street) slice of innovation heaven.
For those who aren’t in the know, here’s the scoop on MaRS Innovation:
MaRS Innovation provides an integrated commercialization platform that harnesses the economic potential of the exceptional discovery pipeline of 14 leading Toronto academic institutions. MaRS Innovation is a non-profit organization with an independent industry-led Board of Directors, funded through the Government of Canada’s CECR Program and contributions of its member institutions, as well as support from the Province of Ontario.
A report at Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, picked up today by FierceBiotech, discusses emerging biotechnology clusters. It’s worth excerpting the whole bit on Canada:
Both Toronto and Vancouver have good, small companies, but they’re struggling for capital. They have the benefit of government support and strong universities, particularly the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph, and the University of British Columbia. Entrepreneurship skills need to be honed, however.
In the heart of Toronto, the MaRS Center incubates a host of companies within about a mile of five teaching hospitals, the University of Toronto, the provincial parliament, and the financial district. The local government takes a close interest in the Center’s success, and several promising research projects are moving toward commercialization.
Vancouver, on Canada’s west coast, consistently ranks as a fast-growing cluster, attracting more than 90 companies, some with late-stage trials. The University of British Columbia has an active tech-transfer department that has spun out several companies.
The report also discusses innovative activity in China and India, among others, that fits with the trend we have observed. Read the whole report here.