The Biotechnology Commercialisation program at the University of Western Australia

Biotechnology or "Biotech" is a broad field of activity that encompasses the use, adaptation and modification of living systems and organisms to produce new products and processes. It has its origins in the historic domestication and subsequent breeding of animals and plants for human use. Today it can involve the medical and biological sciences, as well as the engineering, computer, agricultural, environmental and health sciences. As with any technology it must be commercialised before it can be applied within society in a useful manner. Otherwise it is likely to remain in the laboratory.

Introduction

MKTG5604: Biotechnology Commercialisation (BC) focuses on the process of how firms engaged in the development of biotechnology projects manage innovation and the processes of new product development (NPD) and commercialisation. It seeks to adopt an applied approach to the subject and to allow students the opportunity to work with actual firms and innovations. The process of commercialising a new product or technology has been likened to the “crossing of a chasm”. Just because you have a really wonderful new mouse trap does not mean that the market will adopt it. To get your innovation into mainstream production requires careful analysis of the most appropriate pathway to market, and the design of an appropriate business case that will create an investment vehicle for potential investors.

There is evidence that a positive relationship exists between the level of innovation (as measured by patents lodged), the overall productivity of the workforce, and the general growth of the Australian economy. However, while the track record of invention within Australia is impressive, the rate of successful commercialisation of this intellectual property is poor. Common problems associated with commercialisation failures are, poor or inappropriate business models; inadequate management skills by those seeking to develop the venture; insufficient marketing and market assessment; poor management of intellectual property; absence of a clear exit strategy and inadequate understanding of the venture capital process.

Successful commercialisation requires several stages through which the new technology or innovation must pass. While each commercialisation project is frequently unique, there are several key factors that have been found to be most important to commercialisation success. The first of these is to have a clearly defined market for the new innovation. Second, there must be a well-balanced management or project development team capable of handling the engineering, production, marketing, financial and strategic management tasks associated with a new product development process. This team must be able to assess and control risk, both financial and technical, and it should be able to listen to the voice of the customer, adapting the product or process to suit market requirements.

Finally, the team needs to be able to secure resources to enable it to bring the project to the market. Raising finance to fuel business development requires the ability to prepare an investment ready business case, protect intellectual property, and negotiate suitable contracts.

Unit content

The unit focuses on the theory and practice of innovation management, NPD and commercialisation. It draws together concepts and methods that have been identified as forming "best practice" in these areas.
 
Topics covered include:
 
  • The design of sustainable business models for new products and innovations;
  • Assessing the market and listening to the voice of the customer;
  • Assessing the resource capabilities of the firm for commercialisation and whether there is a requirement for strategic partnerships;
  • The identification and protection of intellectual property (IP) rights and the ability to create other sources of "isolating mechanisms";
  • Assessment of the financial case for undertaking the commercialisation of the innovation and alternative sources of financing;
  • Assessment of the technical case for the commercialisation of the innovation; and vii) developing a commercialisation strategy for the innovation.

Real life industry projects

A feature of the UWA Biotech Commercialisation program is the interaction between students and the entrepreneurs and inventors who join the students as "Industry Project Owners".

Each industry project owner brings their project into the classroom and works with a team of students who review the innovation and assist the project owner to develop a commercialisation strategy. This "hands on" approach to learning is of immense benefit to both the students and the industry project owners. 

"Thanks for the great unit. I have learnt a lot. I highly recommend this to continue as a core unit for the Master of Biotech. This will diversify our background and it offers different job opportunities in our field". (Master of Biotechnology student, 2015)

Program information and content

The following links take you to information and content relating to the Biotech Commercialisation program: