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Bottom of Form“Universities spend USD50 billion on researches every year in the United States alone,” says Krisztina “Z” Holly. This means huge untapped potential in the form of talent and intellectual property that you can leverage and help commercialize.”

Curator and host of the first ever TEDx, tech entrepreneur, and founder of two university innovation centers at MIT and USC, Holly has a track record of identifying undiscovered talent and ideas and catalyzing new initiatives. Holly, a YPO member in Los Angeles since 2010, was one of Los Angeles’ first “entrepreneurs in residence” and is currently the founder and chief instigator of MAKE IT IN LA, an initiative of Mayor Eric Garcetti to build community and content for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in manufacturing.

Universities host some of the most brilliant, diverse minds, but they can be hard to navigate. As a result, their potential remains relatively unexploited. Here are Holly’s top five tips below for doing deals with the academic sector.

  1. Identify fundingOnce you find a lab or a program doing work of interest, identify the level of funding that would move the needle for both of you. Then, work directly with the office of sponsored research programs to negotiate the actual agreement.
  2. Focus on talent over intellectual propertyDevelop a plan to engage faculty and students regularly, and consider giving a gift rather than sponsoring research. Although the gift doesn’t entitle you to new IP, it usually means lower overhead rates. If you work with a program that effectively engages partners, you will get the most bang for the buck.
  3. Think of what each party can offer, and consider unconventional deliverablesIf insights from millennials are important to you, curate a design charrette with students over lunch. Meanwhile, you might provide unique access to data or product prototypes.
  4. 4. Pick an area that is important to you, but not time or mission criticalThink of this as an exploratory investment in innovation. You get what you put into it, so have a champion in your company to maximize chances the partnership will be productive.
  5. Understand the motivations of academicsReputation is the biggest currency in academia, so you must manage conflicts of interest. Also, understand that academics are always hustling to fund their research programs. No matter how sexy your brand, don’t expect them to do anything for free.


YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) is a not-for-profit, global network of young chief executives connected through the shared mission of becoming Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange™. For more information, visit www.ypo.org.




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