I have created an innovation

A male student holds up a vial while other people lab coats examine the contents

Cutting-edge research can often result in new technologies with commercial potential, but the transition from laboratory to head office can be daunting. And while the technology may be revolutionary in its potential, the need for proper protection and effective execution are both imperative. Indeed, developing the product is sometimes seen as the easiest part of the task. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available to guide you.

One of the first tasks is to protect your invention by declaring it as such. The process of how to make such a declaration – and how to apply for the patents that will provide legal protection – is covered in the Guide for Faculty Inventors, as prepared by the Office of Innovation and Partnerships. It is also possible to seek funding to further develop your technology. This can be done in one of several ways:

Apply for a grant

If your concept is technology-driven, you can apply for a grant through the TechAccel program offered by the McGill Engine.

Enter a competition

Typically aimed at undergraduate students, competitions are a chance to present your concept to an audience and sharpen your presentation skills. And they can help you find funding for your project. A good beginning is the TechIdea Pitch Competition hosted by the McGill Engine. If your business idea is more than just an idea, you could take part in the Dobson Cup. In the Faculty of Science, there is the Fessenden Prize.

Join a program

The Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship has a number of programs available for various stages of startup companies. The McGill X-1 Accelerator, for example, might be an option of your team is ready for 10 weeks of intensive support and coaching over the summer.

Frequently asked questions

I developed my invention while working under the guidance of my professor. Who owns the rights to the idea?

McGill respects copyright as a fundamental right of authorship. It is important to have a clear understanding of the protections that this affords; these can be reviewed here. At the same time, Professors have a right to know what is happening in their labs, as what transpires there can impact their research. Student-inventors should have frank discussions with their supervisors so that both parties are aware of what work is being done, and where they stand with respect to that work.

I am convinced my innovation has market potential, but running a business seems like too much work. What are my options?

As an inventor, you are free to do what you like with your idea. It can be given away or sold. Or, you can remain involved in the business as an advisor without having to be involved in its day-to-day operations. Whatever option you select, make sure to get it in writing and that you understand what it is you are agreeing to.

I’ve already established a company but need office and/or lab space. What facilities are available at McGill to host companies in their beginning stages?

McGill does not offer hosting or incubation spaces for businesses, and researchers are not allowed to work for companies – startups or otherwise – without a specific agreement in place. The rules on this are available here (see section 2.15). However, it is clear that to foster innovation and to successfully commercialize research, it is necessary to support early-stage companies. Contact the innovation.vpip [at] mcgill.ca (Office of Innovation and Partnerships) if you have specific needs.

How important is it to patent my innovation? Is it sufficient to get only a Canadian patent? Who pays for this process?

Patents are a crucial component for many startups. Not only do they protect you from competitors, but they also increase the value of your company for investors. However, patent registrations can be costly and time-consuming, and they require some expertise which must often be hired out to 3rd parties. When a faculty inventor wishes to patent something, the University can help, but this will be in exchange for partial ownership of the company. The general policy of the University is not to impede business creation, so these stakes are reasonable and are intended to offset costs incurred during the patent process. The first step in the process is to declare an invention, which can be done here.

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