The HPSU Infrastructure

September 2, 2010

The one area where Ireland has invested heavily is in its third-level institutions. In most universities and Institutes of Technology there are technology transfer offices and enterprise incubation units. There are also properly funded enterprise platform programmes for potential entrepreneurs. Good work is done throughout the country in third-level institutions in promoting entrepreneurship and technology transfer.

So what can be done to sharpen the point and assist in developing the IPO culture? There are a number of things that could be considered and many of them relate to mindset issues and culture. The first thing I would suggest is that the ‘incubation’ units should be renamed to ‘commercialisation centres;. At the moment they are known by a variety of names and brands, learning and innovation centres has been used as a description of these centres. Well, learning and innovation is meant to happen in the rest of the college but these centres are purely for the commercialisation of marketable products and concepts developed within the college or by former alumnus. I fear at times that these centres are being swallowed up by the larger college bureaucracy rather than being seen as stand alone, commercially-minded specialised units. In some universities there are well developed technology transfer offices to co-ordinate activities but where this is not the case I would be inclined to establish the centres as independent trusts operating in parallel to the third-level institution with the College President being the chair of their board. No disrespect meant to my academic friends but the speed at which college administration works is simply too slow to work in the fast-paced world of HPSU, VC and technological development and commercialisation.

I would also proffer the view that the entrepreneurs should be encouraged to take a far more commercially aggressive approach to their businesses. If our entrepreneurs are going to swim with sharks like business angels, VC funds and potential trade buyers then the only way they will survive is to be sharks themselves. The commercialisation centres themselves need to take a more stringent line with the type of enterprises they let in and take the view that if the enterprise is not a potential IPO candidate then they really should be seeking support from the enterprise boards and other agencies. This may appear a little too harsh but when they leave the safety net of the institutions there will be no cotton wool being supplied by commercial funders and potential buyers.

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