Calling all inventors: Read this first!

Whatever the scale of the idea, McGill's Office of Innovation and Partnerships can help guide creators through the often tricky process of bringing an idea to commercial reality
Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of his water wheel device (circa 1480)

“Build a better mousetrap,” goes the old adage, “and the world will beat a path to your door.” If only that were true. But, the reality of inventing a product or a process – and successfully commercializing it – is much different. Indeed, this old saying should probably go down as some of the worst business advice in history.

Fortunately, the McGill academic community can count on much better support when they believe they have developed a new method of containing unwanted rodent pests – or any other invention for that matter. For while the University is well known for its illustrious academic record and research excellence, it is perhaps less known as a major source of entrepreneurial activity. In fact in 2019, McGill University was ranked the 2nd most entrepreneurial school in Canada with over $7 billion raised in venture capital funds (according to Pitchbook). In the same year, the University was also one of the top 100 institutions in the world for the number of declared US patents.

Whatever the scale of the idea, the Office of Innovation and Partnerships (I+P) has prepared a Guide for Faculty Inventors that can help guide creators through the often tricky process of bringing an idea to commercial reality. Reporting an invention, filing a patent application, licensing a technology – these are some of the major steps to take and without the proper guidance they can result in serious frustration, long delays or worse.

Many from the vibrant McGill research network have availed themselves of the support provided by the I+P Office, including Professor George Demopoulos from the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering. “I have received multiple services from the Innovation and Partnerships team, ranging from IP protection, discussing a report of invention, understanding US or PCT patent application options, and all the way to negotiating and signing a royalty-bearing license,” he explained. “Often as researchers, we are thinking only of publications, and we neglect the importance of IP protection that may not only lead to commercialization but can also attract new research funds from industrial partners.”

It is a near certainty that somewhere on campus, whether it is today, tomorrow or next month, a researcher will make a discovery that could potentially change lives – but the path from the lab to the customer is long and complicated. Before attempting to navigate that route independently, budding inventors are urged to consult the Guide for Faculty Inventors, available online.

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