A startup postdoc program as a channel for university technology transfer: the case of the Runway Startup Postdoc Program at the Jacobs Technion–Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech

Abstract

Academic entrepreneurship at universities allows students to leverage entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurial activities and university resources, when exploiting the deep knowledge of their research. The establishment of a new research university in NYC—Cornell Tech—offered the opportunity to experiment with a startup postdoc program, initiated there, called Runway, examining technology transfer by postdoc startups based on the notion that committed postdocs could be effective agents in commercializing their research. The program has unique features that differentiate it from incubator and accelerator programs. It is framed and structured as a postdoctoral program embedded in and legitimated by the university’s research and education institutions; it provides entrepreneurial postdocs with a structured educational program for translational research and company founding to transform them from scientists into entrepreneurs; and it offers a simple, startup-friendly intellectual property and financial model. Action research, common in educational program experiments, was used as the research model. The program was launched in 2014 and has incorporated 25 postdocs and their startups. This program shows that a university startup postdoc track can be an effective channel for technology transfer, and provide a career option for Ph.D. graduates. Contributions to technology transfer and academic entrepreneurship research are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The postdoc’s company.

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Correspondence to Uzi de Haan.

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Shuli C. Shwartz: Formerly with the Jacobs Technion–Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, NYC, USA.

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de Haan, U., Shwartz, S.C. & Gómez-Baquero, F. A startup postdoc program as a channel for university technology transfer: the case of the Runway Startup Postdoc Program at the Jacobs Technion–Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech. J Technol Transf 45, 1611–1633 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10961-019-09764-7

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Keywords

  • Academic entrepreneurship
  • Graduate students’ startups
  • University spinoffs
  • Translational research
  • Technology transfer
  • Action research

JEL Classification

  • I23
  • L26
  • M13
  • O31
  • O32
  • O34