Western University is a Canadian leader at creating and commercializing intellectual property. Through the work of its technology transfer office, WORLDiscoveries, Western has proven adept at moving innovations out of the academic arena and into market to provide real economic and social benefits for Canadians. WORLDiscoveries’ mandate is to dramatically improve the return on investment to researchers, the local community and the country by licensing innovations, supporting startup creation, and nurturing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across campus. In the first year of our Annual Commercialization Plan, we will focus on increasing capacity by: 1) providing access to educational resources to create savvy inventors with sophisticated IP knowledge and entrepreneurial skills; 2) establishing new multi-year, multi-faculty and multi-contract partnerships for sponsored research and commercialization activities; and 3) advocating for a full and complete recognition of efforts required to generate new IP in career progression considerations for faculty. Through these efforts we will ensure all faculty and students who wish to generate and commercialize their innovative research results are fully supported and enabled to do so.
Providing access to education around IP and commercialization is essential for the Western community to reach its full potential. To this end, WORLDiscoveries, in collaboration with various campus and local partners, has established educational programming that fosters a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and develops researchers’ skills. Examples include the newly established WE-Empower program, Graduate Student Innovation Scholars, Innovation Ambassadors, and IP Strategy Bootcamp, among others. All endeavour to provide researchers with the requisite skills to think entrepreneurially, navigate the complicated world of IP protection and chart new pathways to bring their research results to market.
Western’s Strategic Plan, Towards 150, has a core theme of having greater impact across all areas of our work, including the pursuit of new partnerships. Western plans to grow its connections with industry of all scales and across jurisdictions, while bringing innovative research results to market through synergies established between the newly created Office of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships and WORLDiscoveries. Western is poised to increase engagement with local and international organizations to identify areas of common research interest for collaborative, innovative research projects and partners for commercial exploitation of Western’s IP.
Western is an inventor-owned institution where the Intellectual Property generated is owned by the creator, who may choose to commercialize it alone or in partnership with the university. The effort required to generate new IP is significant and appropriate recognition is therefore needed if we are to maximize the incentives for its creation. While a financial incentive exists for entrepreneurially minded researchers owing to the inventor- owned IP policies, this reward is often ancillary to the core function of an institution of higher learning. Accordingly, many researchers, and especially those in the early stages of their careers, may devote less energy to IP creation and commercialization if the required effort is not given appropriate consideration for their professional advancement. With this in mind, we plan to explore a more expansive incentive structure that reflects such efforts in the promotion and tenure level review process. By doing so, we believe all necessary incentive structures will be in place to encourage researchers to lean into innovation, thereby increasing commercializable research outputs and increasing Western’s role as an economic driver in Ontario.