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Commercialisation of research results

Introducing a result of a research project into a new product/service/process/solution.

Written by Christian Saublens

Reviewed by David Walburn


The concept

How to implement it?

Step in the RIS3 process

What can be expected?

A quote


Experts' comments


The concept

Introducing a result of a research project into a new product/service/process/solution. This is a critical issue to maximize the return on public investment in research activities.


How to implement it?

Public authorities have 2 means to foster the commercialization of research results; either the selection process of projects requires from the very beginning information regarding market opportunities and feedback of potential users, or public authorities develop a comprehensive package of support services to facilitate the commercialization process as soon as project results are available.

For these 2 options, the following guidance should be taken into consideration by public authorities or funding agencies:

A.   requirements in the application forms for R&D+I support:

  • identification of key applications of the foreseen results and market intelligence evidence
  • description of the measures needed to support the uptake (prototype, proof of concept, testing, standardization, …) of the results
  • description of the economic impact: advantages for existing clients, new markets, quality upgrade, internationalization
  • analysis of the IPR: patent, licence, trademark, …
  • description of the involvement of other partners in the value chain and (if needed) final users
  • description of the needed resources to address the exploitation challenges and the innovation management capabilities in the enterprises (human, funding, partners, …).

The graph below illustrates how to establish links between commercialization thinking and activities and the technology readiness levels (TRLs).

TRLs are a scale from 1 to 9 allowing the measurement of the maturity of a technology, lower TRLs corresponding to basic research and highest ones to a technology (nearly) ready to be introduced on the market:

  1. Basic principles observed and reported.
  2. Technology concept formulated.
  3. Analytical and experimental critical function proof of concept.
  4. Component and/or breadboard validation in a laboratory environment.
  5. Component and/or breadboard validation in a relevant environment.
  6. System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment.
  7. System prototype demonstration in an operational environment.
  8. Actual system completed and operationally qualified through test and demonstration.
  9. Actual system, proven through successful practical use.[1]


 Source: Innovation: How to convert research into commercial success story - Part 3: Innovation Management for Practitioners

B.    by developing a comprehensive set of support services to enhance the commercialization of research results, either by the knowledge holders or by regional stakeholders.

Such an integrated scheme needs to include support services notably enabling:

  • technological watching with commercial applications in mind;
  • proactive spotting of technology with commercial potential;
  • researcher awareness raising as to both the market value of the outcomes of their research and cooperation with clients, investors or regional businesses;
  • validation of the technological maturity and commercial competitiveness of selected ideas;
  • IP protection;
  • selection of the most suitable commercial strategy: licensing, patent sales, spin-outs;
  • brokerage tools;
  • negotiation of the transfer of knowledge or technology;
  • development of a business and financial plan plus an incubation contract if need be;
  • support to develop a prototype;
  • support to secure proof-of-concept funding or a grant to back the development of a start-up;
  • possible support in the search for investors (business angels, seed or venture capital funds);
  • support in the search for a first client.



Step in the RIS3 process

Step 5: policy mix


What can be expected?

  •  Better use of public investments in R&D+I
  • Increase competitiveness


A quote

"Patents are not the guarantor of the commercial and financial success of investments made in R&D" - Les Echos, 27-28 December 2013.




Mr Christian Saublens


Christian Saublens has more than 30 years of working experience in European trade organizations. Since 1992 he is the Executive Manager of EURADA, the European Association of Development Agencies, a network of 145 organisations. Christian has been involved in the organization of numerous conferences and meetings dealing with all matters related to regional development. He wrote several papers and working documents on business support schemes for SMEs. He played an important role for the dissemination in European regions of concepts such as benchmarking, business angels, investment readiness, proof of concept, clusters, open innovation, financial engineering, crowdfunding, … Several times Christian has been appointed as an expert by the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions.



Experts' comments

The detailed theoretical processes set out in the main paper provide a valuable framework for practitioners and policy makers to understand the dynamics of the commercialisation of research from which more effective programmes of intervention can be devised.

In practical terms, however, implementation will be unlikely to follow the neat stages shown, particularly in the SME sector where entrepreneurs may face extraordinary challenges in bringing ideas or the results of research to the point where a commercial return is made. There are risks to be faced at many stages along the line.

The great value of the analysis presented in the paper is to provide economic development practitioners and the firms they are supporting a clear guide through the process.  For the practitioners, the hard task is devising the content of the programmes of support. Without this, the analysis is of limited use.


Mr David Walburn


After a career in business David Walburn joined Greater London Enterprise in 1986 where he was responsible for venture capital and other small business support, before becoming Chief Executive of the organisation. He was the Chair of the London Business Angels Network and played a key role in the setting up of the European Business Angels Network. He has worked with the UK government and the European Commission on developing public policy initiatives to improve the financing of small and medium-sized enterprises. He was the Chair of Capital Enterprise, the umbrella body for organisations supporting micro business development in London, until 2012.

For the last ten years he has been a Visiting Professor at London South Bank University where he headed the Local Economy Policy Unit and was the managing editor of the journal Local Economy.

He has served as President of EURADA, and been a member of a number of advisory bodies of the European Commission.  He has been an active member of the International Economic Development Council in Washington DC and has a wide range of international contacts with economic development organisations.

He continues to write and lecture on small business finance and regional economic development.


[1] Source: Innovation: How to convert research into commercial success story - Part 3: Innovation Management for Practitioners