The 36ers

A 36-hour commercialisation sprint session has opened up a world of possibilities for academic Brendan Darby.

Darby is a Victoria University PhD student, completing his doctorate in physics. During their work, he and the group of Professor Eric Le Ru at Victoria University of Wellington developed a potential breakthrough in spectroscopy– measuring cloudy solutions with light – which could have commercial applications.

Without divulging anything vital, the final product would enable analysis of water samples that are too cloudy for conventional methods, meaning filtration or other time consuming methods are required to measure them.

Brendan-Darby-Web

Brendan Darby

Water quality monitoring is a big business, so the potential for commercial success is clear enough.

But as a student undertaking fundamental research, getting an idea to market is not something he has naturally been exposed to.

“Through Viclink (the University’s commercialisation office), there is extensive support for research groups in commercialising their ideas, but I myself had no idea about concepts like a minimum viable product or routes to market.”

As suggested by VicLink, Darby attended an intensive commercialisation session run by KiwiNet called GetFunded 36. It was billed as getting researchers ‘better prepared when communicating your science ideas for investment, be that Industry or MBIE’.  The programme ran over two days in early December in Wellington.

By the end of the sprint the product had gone from vague gap in the market to picking apart its flaws, conceptualising the minimum viable product and figuring out where it sat on an adoption curve.

 

“Through funding from VicLink and the VUW research office, I went along, without too much intention of pitching our product, just picking up some ideas. But on the first morning, CreativeHQ said give us your 90 second pitch, and I did.”

It was the first of three pitches Darby gave during the two days as the water monitoring product became the focus of a larger group of GetFunded participants.

By the end of the sprint the product had gone from vague gap in the market to picking apart its flaws, conceptualising the minimum viable product and figuring out where it sat on an adoption curve.

Darby rates receiving some training in giving pitches, and having some experienced operators ask tough questions as the most valuable experience he gained.

“The efficiency and effectiveness of the day was impressive. There was also an amazing array of contacts among the people in the room.

“We weren’t selling dreams – I was getting grilled on ‘can your device do this? Can your device do that?’”

The short nature of GetFunded36 had its downside, of course.

Get-Funded-36

“We had to jump to a lot of conclusions about the market, because the time constraints didn’t allow full market research, and it would have been nice to explore the IP side of things a bit more, but I would highly recommend it to others.”

Darby says Viclink and other networks are crucial to beginning the journey towards commercialisation, and “GetFunded provided further invaluable avenues for accelerating this process”.

For now, the plan is to focus on getting the device “from the bench in the lab to a minimum viable product that interested customers can begin using”.

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About Callaghan Innovation

Business. Technology. Success.
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