If I develop a business idea while a student at McGill, who owns it?
You do. McGill respects the rights of all inventors, and we can help you protect your idea through patent applications. However, some ideas take place while under the direction of a Professor, and as a supervisor, they have a right to know what is taking place in their lab or research area. Nevertheless, you should be confident that your ideas are protected by University policy and by the law.
What supports are available to beginning entrepreneurs?
Check the Innovation Map for an overview of what supports are available within McGill. There are also many programs available across Montreal to help new businesses. These include: District 3, Centech, TandemLaunch, Quartier d’Innovation, Founder Fuel and many others. A good starting point would be PME MTL.
What is the difference between a startup and a spin-off?
In general terms, a start-up is a company that is launched independently of any other business. A spin-off, however, emerges from an existing business or institution. McGill University further distinguishes between them with the following definition: a spin-off is created from technology that has been developed and licensed from McGill. A startup does not use technology licensed from the institution.
What is a business plan and why do I need one now?
A business plan is a document that fully describes the commercial application of your invention, how it will be produced, and where it will be sold. Although you may not be ready to actually produce anything at the moment, a business plan is an essential tool to help investors become interested in your business, as it can help convince them of the validity of your concept. You can get support for creating a business plan in a number of places, but perhaps the best place to start would be talking to an entrepreneur-in-residence.
I love innovating but don’t like pitching my ideas in front of an audience. What can I do?
Find someone who does! Although innovation and entrepreneurship may seem like individual activities, they are really done best in a team. And the most successful teams are ones where the skills of its members complement one another. There are many ways to find team members, but a good place to do that would be one of the various innovation events.
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.
I am an experienced entrepreneur and I want to offer my advice on a regular basis. How can I go about this?
There are many ways entrepreneurs can lend their expertise. By acting as a judge in a pitch session, for example, or by reviewing grant applications (e.g., TechAccel). You could also become a mentor. The first place to start would be identifying your area of expertise, and then contacting the relevant leads in those areas. For business-related entrepreneurship, reach out to the Dobson Centre. For medicine-related ventures, and for engineering-centric businesses, reach out to the McGill Engine.
I am a McGill alumnus/a and want to help, but no longer live in Montreal. How can I help foster innovation at McGill?
Your generous donation can help our students make their own discoveries. To directly support individual student projects, you might want to look at the Seeds of Change, a crowdfunding platform that will allow you to give to specific activities. Or, you may prefer to support the University’s innovation efforts through one of its faculties.
We want to sponsor research but want to know who will own the technology that comes out of it. What rights will the Professor retain?
Our starting position is that IP rests in McGill and we offer the sponsor an option to negotiate a fee-bearing license. That said, we are open to negotiation that goes beyond this, and if the McGill research team agrees, we can accept other ownership/licensing terms. Internally, IP at McGill is handled as per the McGill IP policy. It is co-owned by McGill and the inventors and, as such should any industry-sponsored research result in revenues through licenses discussed in the bullet above, then it is shared as described in the policy.
We just want access to specific machines to run some tests. Can our company use facilities at McGill without any faculty being involved?
Our preference is for McGill employees to use the machines and to perform the work under a service agreement. Despite this, it is possible to negotiate other conditions, but all work should be performed under the supervision of McGill employees. Note that this will also depend on the specific Faculty involved. For the testing of medical devices, click here for details.
What is the difference between direct and in-direct costs?
Direct costs are the actual costs (salaries, materials, equipment, etc.) that are specifically incurred to perform the research. Indirect costs are general organizational costs that are incurred by the university in support of the research.
I’ve been contacted by a company that wants to undertake research. Who do I contact to help me draw up a research agreement?
The Office of Innovation and Partnerships will help you to put in place the required agreement. Start by reaching out to giovanna.sebastiani [at] mcgill.ca (Giovanna Sebastiani), Associate Director, Industry Partnerships.