Home Biological science Bridging the gap between scientific discovery and societal benefit

Bridging the gap between scientific discovery and societal benefit


There comes a time in the lives of many academic scientists when discoveries confined to the laboratory are ready to reach a wider audience – when a new product or technology has shown in tests that it will provide significant benefit to society. .

For university researchers, there is no guide to help them take that first step towards commercializing their research. Now, a new book fills that resource gap.

Titled “Beyond Discovery: Moving Academic Research to the Market” (Oxford University Press, 2022), the book is aimed specifically at researchers working in academia and details how to approach and navigate the world of marketing, the many ways in which the process can play and who are the main actors in an academic environment.

“Most people don’t know how this happens, and people in universities don’t realize they’re part of a pipeline. It’s the first book written specifically for teachers that tells them how to play the game,” said co-author Jean Schelhorn. “There are many ways to commercialize research, and faculty need to hear it. There are different levels of involvement in technology transfer, and the hallmark of academics is that the inventor stays involved – but only as involved as they want.

Schelhorn and co-author Joan Herbers, both affiliated with The Ohio State University, brought very different, yet complementary experiences to the development of this guide.

Schelhorn, a chemist, is a serial patent inventor and former industry executive who, over decades, has developed expertise in coaching and strategizing with scientists as they wade through the waters of commercialization. She is the current Director of Commercialization and Industry Collaborations at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where she guides faculty inventors through patent applications, licensing agreements, and other projects.

Jean Schelhorn

Herbers, an evolutionary biologist, is a professor and dean emeritus of biological sciences at Ohio State, where she was the principal investigator of a National Science Foundation-funded initiative to increase attendance and success women teachers in STEM and to foster the pursuit of women scientists. to commercialize their technologies.

The authors emphasize that their intention is to demystify the world of commercialization by describing the different types of professionals who help move the process forward, substituting regular words for jargon, and explaining the many avenues for achieving “outside technology transfer”. of the institution and in another entity.

“A faculty member once said to me, ‘You know, this world is like trying to walk through the Grand Canyon. How am I going to do this without a guide?'” Herbers said. to be their guide.”

Among the key takeaways from the book: Bringing research to market doesn’t necessarily mean building a start-up company.

“If you look at the world right now, the focus is on startups and entrepreneurship, which involves you forming a business,” Schelhorn said. “Some technologies are not suitable for a startup. Meanwhile, there’s this huge world of licensing, and how you do that is not understood.

“Essentially, everything leaves college as a bachelor’s degree. However, getting there is a very complex process and in this book we explain it in detail.

Joan Herber

Because the information can feel overwhelming for busy aspiring inventors, Schelhorn and Herbers made a concerted effort to write a highly readable book that gets scientists thinking about how their work could change the world.

“A lot of it is very complex information. There’s a lot of fun in there too,” Schelhorn said. “And I can say from experience that going through this process with a team is really a great adventure.”

In developing the book, Schelhorn drew on her deep knowledge as a former private-sector patent strategist and longtime specialist in technology transfer at Ohio State, helping academic scientists envision a future in which their inventions make a difference in people’s lives. She partnered with Herbers, who spent his entire career steeped in college culture and trying to make it better.

“The result is truly one of a kind,” Herbers said. “It’s an underserved culture in terms of the hardware that will help them advance in that area, so our goal was to clarify the realm that the inventor has to go through. And we meet people where they are, in that culture.

“I didn’t patent or commercialize anything. But I know how teachers think and why it can be a tough sell for them.

Between the book’s explanatory chapters are profiles of inventors representing a range of fields, career stages and types of institutions that are designed to increase the chances that readers will see themselves in the world of commercialization and be encouraged to try it.

The inclusion of these profiles was particularly appealing to the editor, said Sarah Humphreville, editor, Oxford University Press.

“What we thought was so special about this book is that, although Drs. Herbers and Schelhorn themselves brought a wealth of practical teaching, research and marketing experience, they also gave space throughout their manuscript to the diverse experiences of so many people who had walked down interesting, often unusual, to commercial success,” Humphreville said. “Readers from almost any academic specialty can find glimmers of their story, or the potential of their ideas, in the stories shared – which, as editors, we found quite exciting.”

To help inventors share their stories and create new networks, Schelhorn and Herbers have also created a website, https://gobeyonddiscovery.com/.

“There’s a whole ecosystem for startup founders,” Schelhorn said, “but there’s very little for people who want to keep their footing in an institutional environment and still matter in the world.” .

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