Commercializing Research at Harvard

The effort to commercialize research has a long, haphazard history in higher ed. But schools such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT organize their commercialization efforts through one department. At Harvard that department is called the Office of Technology Development (OTD).

While the OTD measures its success in terms of long-term impact on society, its financial impact is already evident—and particularly salient in an environment of constrained federal support for research. The fiscal 2018 commercialization revenue of $54 million, and the corporate research funding of $51 million, point to a new vision for advancing academic innovation that meshes well with the University’s aspirations for developing an enterprise research campus in Allston: in the past five years, OTD has helped faculty members start more than 70 companies and raise more than $1.5 billion in equity financing to commercialize Harvard-based discoveries.

Accelerating Innovation, Harvard Magazine

The OTD even holds conferences where researchers present to a panel of industry experts for feedback.

True to its name, the Guppy Tank is about nurturing young projects and providing innovative researchers with strategic guidance from a rotating panel of industry experts. “There aren’t too many venues in the gestation of a company where you can get a supportive environment with this kind of expertise,” said Christopher Petty, a director of business development at the OTD. “At this point, [these scientists have] been doing years of work on the research itself but are just starting to think about the formation of a company, so it’s great for them to get the feedback. Later, in the world of serious fundraising, there’s more chance you are in a ‘shark tank.’ That can be less constructive, since it can be more about raising money and why an idea might not work.”

Swimming toward a biotech startup, The Harvard Gazette

And if you are a budding inventor on Harvard’s campus, OTD has a handbook for you:

The Inventor’s Handbook

John Harvard overlooking Harvard Yard.
Twitter @HarvardAlumni

Post by Marcelino Pantoja