Professor Toby Gordon poses such questions to her students at the start of the Discovery to Market (D2M) technology transfer course in Carey’s Global MBA program. Her aim is to help students tease out where they fit in the tech transfer arena. “Some will say, ‘I thought I was an Elvis, but I’m really a Parker,’” Gordon explains. “Everyone has a role in bringing an innovation to market, from inventors to social entrepreneurs to finance people to accountants.”
D2M teaches that it takes various people working together to create a marketable product from an idea. The course starts in the second semester of the Global MBA program, when groups of about a half-dozen students are matched with unpatented projects funneled through the Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer Office (JHTT). Global MBA students in last year’s charter class were assigned to health, energy, and environmental projects that originated at the university’s Department of Medicine and the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, among other sources.
Gordon emphasizes that D2M is intended as an experiential academic exercise, not a commercialization factory. Still, she says, the program “is a win-win in that [JHTT] gets these smart students working on important projects, and the students get a great educational experience.”
During that first semester of work in the spring, the students began gathering details about their assigned inventions. This fall, the students conclude their work by doing a deeper analysis and determining if, and how, the inventions can be launched commercially. A key step, Gordon points out, is assessing who will pay for the product. An invention might be deemed useful to millions of people, but unless, say, an insurance company or hospital will shell out for it, it won’t fly. “The students learn there are many great ideas out there,” Gordon says, “but also many hurdles to clear if you’re going to get that great idea to the marketplace.”