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Proof of Concept at Aalborg University

AAU receives 50-70 new inventions each year, all which are actively sought commercialized. AAU has one of the highest success rates among Danish universities for the usuage of research, and the AAU Proof of Concept will contribute to continuing to ensure this, as well as to ensure that more research results across all major areas are sought commercially utilized.

BACKGROUND FOR THE PROOF OF CONCEPT

Historically, approximately 10-15 inventions a year at Aalborg University have big commercial potential, but at the same time very early. They must be mature and documented further in order to be sold to companies and / or form a basis for research collaboration. It is often seen that private companies and investors are reluctant to invest in early university experiences due to the high risk.

As part of Strategy fund 2, funds were allocated for the period 2018-2021, and on this basis AAU Innovation has developed a concept for an independent AAU Proof of Concept scheme. Starting in early 2018, this scheme should close down some of the funding gap that is for the maturation of research results, and ensure that AAU continues to be successful in using research, focusing on inventions, software, and prospective research results in general. AAU Proof of Concept is anchored in AAU Knowledge for the World Strategy Point. 9.2.

Purpose at AAU

AAU will increase the number of successful commercializations. The AAU Proof of Concept should therefore run for an industry-close concept that will:

Secure funds for maturing and documentation of early, but promising technology and research results,
Move the technology to a stage where investors and businesses can take over so that early inventions and research results with great potential can be commercialized.

AAU PoC - Latest news

The next application deadline is EARLY OCTOBER 2020

The final date will be announced as soon as possible.

Any questions with the implications of  Coronavirus (COVID-19), please email Jens Frede Rasmussen from the Technology Transfer Office at jfr@adm.aau.dk.

What and who can apply?

Funds can be applied by all AAU employees regarding the following areas:

  • Inventions
  • Software
  • Research results that can not be IP protected as inventions

The above mentioned, where PoC funds are sought for, must furfill:

  1. AAU has 100% rights to, or
  2. Third party rights must be transferred to AAU in order to be eligible for PoC funds,
  3. Particularly for non-IP protectable inventions: An agreement must be entered into for transfer of parts of the inventive property to AAU before Proof of Concept funds may be granted.
  4. Have a specific business / partner's interest. As a rule, there must be a Letter of Intent / Interest (see section on expressions of interest) attached to the application.
  5. Have financial support from Institute/Faculty (see chapter about budget for more info)

Finally, ownership of IP rights must be determined at the time of application.

Applications are made jointly with Technology Transfer Office at AAU Innovation.

Interest

In connection with PoC projects, we mature research-based inventions so companies, innovation environments and venture capital companies can gain an interest in bringing inventions to new / improved products, through license, patent purchases and spin-out companies together with AAU.

Interest expressions from companies in connection with application for funds must show that there is already commercial interest in the final product.

A good interest statement includes

  • Interest in the invention from the company, prospected against the market potential the company sees, in relation to the products the company delivers / produces.
  • Specific technical requirements for what must be met for the company to license / purchase rights respectively. join the spin-out company.
  • Examples of Letter of Interest / Intent can be seen here and another here.

Application and deadlines

In cooperation with Technology Transfer Office, the application form will be filled out and completed.

3 application rounds are planned per year from 2018 to 2021.

Deadlines for applications in 2020

The first deadlines for 2020 is the 20th of March with pitch on the 30th of and 12th of June with pitch on the 22nd of June. TBA around early october with pitch afterwards (to be announced).

Shortly after the deadline for application, the applicant will be contacted with either an offer to come to the pitch of the Proof of Concept board or with a reasoned refusal for the application.

Usage of funds

The funds through PoC can be used to:

  • Reassigned time of researchers, ph.d. and scientific assistants from teaching and research so that they can concentrate for a while on developing their invention.
  • Employ project workers who can work focused on the invention together with the researchers.
  • Purchase, operation or lease of necessary equipment and materials.
  • Travel expenses for own staff and external consultants.
  • Purchase of external services - feasibility studies, trials, development of prototypes, market research, preparation of business plan, etc. and to involve external assistance for market assessment and commercialization of the invention.

Budget and financial requirements

The budget for the AAU Proof of Concept is up to 6 DKK million per year (up to 12 major / 60 smaller projects up to DKK 500,000 / 100,000 per invention).

Please note
The AAU Proof of Concept requires that applications have 2/3 co-financing. The remaining 1/3 comes from AAU Innovation.
This 2/3 co-financing must be from the department / faculty or through external funding. How this 2/3 is divided between these three parties is up to the applicant and not the AAU Proof of Concept.

An example of co-financing may be the purchase of hours for the researcher.

Proof of Concept Grant Types

TYPE 1 PROJECT

For example, the purpose of Type 1 project may be to remedy the clarification to limit the technical and commercial risks of an invention.
Type 1 projects can apply for funds of up to DKK 100,000 for a project length of up to 6 months.

TYPE 2 PROJECT

Type 2 project includes activities to develop, quality control and verify. In other words, in terms of maturation and documentation of an invention's technological and commercial potential. For example, the money can be used to make technical trials and prototype tests to document the potential of a new technology and to identify applications and market potential, business model development, and to engage commercial partners in the further development of a new research-based invention.

Type 2 projects can apply for funds up to 500,000 DKK for a project period of maximum 9 months.

In general, applications are that these are not limited to these funds only. If applications can be supplemented by additional external funds / funds, if there is access to such applications, they will be treated on the same level as those without further external funding.

SPECIFIC FOR NON-IP PROTECTABLE INVENTIONS

AAU Proof of Concept has allocated up to 10% of funds annually to non-IP protectable inventions. The same requirement for co-financing applies to these types of inventions.

Follow-up

Projects that recieves PoC funds must orally review the plan for the project in the start-up phase of PoC with a TTO employee.

The project must also make a short written halfway report with an employee from TTO. This is to ensure a progress towards goal achievement of the Proof of Concept project. Finally, the use of the funds must be reported in writing.

It is the applicant himself who is responsible for the financial follow-up.

Why should the above happen? Because the results should:

  • Documented and evaluated continuously, and
  • Used actively for commercialization throughout the entire project.

Follow-up:

  • Financial follow-up is explained by the applicant of Proof of Concept funds.
  • Result follow-up: Are the milestones of the project achieved? Is the goal of Proof of Concept achieved?
  • No definite research final report shall be made.

The Proof of Concept Process


Early technology can be difficult to sell, as the technology is often not yet proven. This is where Proof of Concept comes into play, as the purpose of PoC is to bring inventions to a new stage of maturation. A Proof of Concept process unfolds as shown in the picture above and explained below:

1. INVENTION

The need emerges. The invention is at an early stage and needs Proof of Concept in order for the technology to mature further.

2. APPLICATION

PoC is applied for. The requirements are:

  • AAU has 100% rights to, or
  • Third party rights must be transferred to AAU in order to be eligible for PoC funds
  • Particularly for non-IP protectable inventions: An agreement must be entered into for transfer of parts of the inventive property to AAU before Proof of Concept funds may be granted.
  • Have a specific business / partner's interest. A Letter of Intent / Interest.
  • Have financial requirements secured from the institute/faculty.

3. EVALUATION

The application is assessed in 5 areas: Market, patent's strength (ignored by the fact that it is a non-IP protected invention), technology description, project plan / structure / budget and lastly person / inventors.

The PoC Board's external members will consist of experienced professionals with competencies in primarily energy, technology, biotech, medtech, product and business development.

4. SCREENING

The board carries out a screening and overall assessment of the 5 areas and looks for potential critical shortcomings. Furthermore, the faith in that PoC can lead the invention further is discussed.

5. PITCH

The inventor presents in 15 minutes the concept behind the invention. The pitch ends with a 30 minute questionnaire from the board.

6. DECISION

The Board then agrees on which inventions they believe in the most based on the assessment of the 5 areas + presentation and questionnaire, and grants are hereafter funded for the implementation of a Proof of Concept.

7. POC GRANT TYPES

The PoC is granted and funded. There are two grant types:

  • Type 1 project:      Max. DKK 100,000     Max. length 6 months
  • Type 2 project:      Max. DKK 500,000     Max. length 9 months

8. INITIAL PHASE

In cooperation with the TTO employee, a plan for the project will be established during the start-up phase, and a mid-term evaluation of the project with TTO will be held. The purpose is to ensure management for the desired technology coding and hence commercialization.

9. END PHASE

In the end phase it is evaluated whether the milestones of the project are achieved - Is the goal of Proof of Concept achieved? The financial follow-up is explained by the applicant of Proof of Concept funds.

No definite research final report shall be made.

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