8. What are incubators and accelerators and what role do they play in terms of the commercialization of IP?
Sometimes TTOs, AROs, incubators and accelerators are lumped together. However, they are diverse types of entities performing different functions.
An incubator typically supports start-up firms by providing shared facilities for workspace and a host of business support services based on flexible and preferential terms not available in the open market.
The purpose of these entities is to provide time-limited support for new ventures during their early days when they are most vulnerable to failure. Often these incubators are attached to research institutions although they can also frequently exist independently.
On the other hand, accelerators help companies to scale and grow.
Accelerators offer targeted support in the way of mentorship and facilitating access to resources including funding in return for equity.
Notably, while these organizations provide significant support, they rarely provide their participants access to qualified independent legal advice on an affordable basis.
As such even when companies engage with these organizations, they aren’t provided with support to understand whether they have freedom to operate in their intended space.
In other words, these organizations don’t typically help the organizations they are supporting to ensure that they have the IP rights that they need when they start up their business, especially when leveraging an invention developed when they were working within a research institution.
It would help if part of the mandate of these organizations was to ensure that the participants they are supporting have access to independent advice or to at least know that they should be accessing this advice. However, until this happens, organizations working with accelerators, incubators and TTOs and AROs should be aware of the need to seek out independent advice.