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This course develops frameworks and tools that can be widely used to develop new research and licensing collaborations and structure those relationships in a way that benefits and aligns the motivation of both parties.

This is a 3-day course taking place on the 1st,3rd, and 5th March with an introductory session on 26th February.

Most knowledge transfer courses assume that the partner is already identified and concentrate on the ‘technical’ aspects of structuring a robust deal. However, the more difficult and time-consuming part of process is finding a partner and generating commitment and enthusiasm to the point where they want to invest in the relationship and do the deal. Using a series of case studies and reflections from experienced practitioners, this course develops frameworks and tools that can be widely used to develop new research and licensing collaborations and structure those relationships in a way that benefits and aligns the motivation of both parties.

Why Join this course?

This course is designed for those whose job involves finding and ‘warming up’ potential research partners and licensees; the human elements of negotiating a deal. It largely focuses on the part of the ‘process’ where, having identified a promising technology or research strength, it is time to find external partners willing to commit resources to take it to market and structure that deal.

Learning Objectives

  • An understanding the scope of the Business Development role
  • How our role interfaces with the academic role and with other KT roles
  • Using the value chain to identify potential partners
  • The ideal characteristics of a potential innovation partner – ‘absorptive capacity’
  • Tactics for identifying potential leads using the internet
  • Using Social Media to identify thought leaders and active innovators
  • The power of forums to link with potential partners

Course Topics

  • Course Introduction - the impossible role of a business developer
  • Developing a strategy
  • The role of the Business Developer
  • Knowing the right people to ‘market’ to
  • Using social media tools to find partners and investors
  • Productive conversations with potential partners
  • Sales tactics.
  • Keeping the deal on track: managing the relationship
  • Corporate resistance to innovation
  • Lining up internal stakeholders (when you have limited authority over them)
  • Capturing the essence of an agreement
  • What businesses want from Business Development Managers
  • Building Strategic Partnerships
  • Overcoming barriers, internal and external
  • Programme
  • Speakers


  • Fri 26 February 2021

    • 15:00 - 17:00    Introduction to the Course

      In order to hit the ground running, participants are invited to join this introductory session with Course Director, Jeff Skinner.

  • Mon 01 March 2021

    • 09:00 - 09:45    Course introduction - the impossible role of a business developer

      Following the introductory session, prior to the course, we start on this pessimistic but realistic note because there’s no denying that it’s what many of us feel. Those charged with developing new relationships and ‘deals’ have the hardest and most thankless (but perhaps the most satisfying) of all KT roles – hard to define, achieve and to measure. It’s worth spending a bit of time defining the job, why it’s so difficult – and yet the most important and rewarding role within KT.

    • 09:45 - 10:30    Developing a strategy

      We jump straight into the course by presenting you with a ‘real’ case for discussion - a wonderful business development opportunity. We ask you to suggest a strategy for the commercial development of the technology and to say what the respective roles of you (the business developer) and the academic team that you’re advising. In doing so we hope to tease out what the role entails and some of the inherent ambiguities and complexities.

    • 10:30 - 10:45    Break

    • 10:45 - 11:45    The role of the Business Developer

      We reflect on the case study to think about the first steps in ‘formatting’ an opportunity to a point where the business developer can start being useful. The trick is to zero in on a potential user so that you can begin to explore the market and industry.

    • 11:45 - 12:45    What academics need from us

      We have two ‘customers’. First, the downstream external organisation/business that invests and ultimately takes a technology to market. Second, the upstream academic who owns the expertise and technology and needs our help to find and warm up enthusiastic partners.

      In this session, we have the opportunity to quiz a particularly engaged academic who is in the middle of commercialising her technology and has reflected on the support that it would have been wonderful to have at the outset of her project.

    • 12:45 - 13:45    Lunch

    • 13:45 - 15:00    Knowing the right people to ‘market’ to

      Having figured out the action plan we need to ‘get the hell out of the building’ and start connecting, contacting and influencing potential partners, industry gurus and opinion leaders – the people who may be part of our network and value chain. This is ‘market research’ but it is also ‘marketing’. In this session, we use two or three examples to explore what is involved, and the techniques we should use to identify the right companies and people, how to contact them and how to build their interest.

    • 15:00 - 15:30    Break

    • 15:30 - 17:00    Using social media tools to find partners and investors

      The most difficult aspect of knowledge transfer is finding potential partners, users, champions, and investors for our new technologies: both companies and the right individuals within them. Used properly, social media tools can both pinpoint and provide warm leads to those to whom we want to speak. In this session we learn – from a social media expert – how to use the huge diversity of tools out there, when and how to use them effectively.

    • 17:00 - 18:30    Briefing for case study discussions – followed by break-out to individual discuss cases

      We asked each of you to bring a ‘problem’ or ‘opportunity’ case study to discuss – in this session each briefly presents their case to the others in the group – and choose on which you will present on Day 3.

  • Wed 03 March 2021

    • 09:00 - 10:00    Corporate resistance to innovation

      Businesses can take a frustratingly long time to invest in a new innovation. This is true even when there is enthusiasm from your initial contacts. This ‘slowness’ can seem irrational and is often frustrating – but it’s a fact of life. We use a semi-fictional case study to diagnose the reasons for this resistance and develop strategies for overcoming them.

    • 10:00 - 11:15    Productive conversations with potential partners

      Many of us (and many academics) find it hard to ‘sell’ to potential partners. We like to talk and present - often far too much - about what the technology is but we do not have strategies for advancing the dialogue towards an initial ‘deal’ of some kind. Successful (sales) meetings should not be pitches or presentations. Rather, they should be structured conversations in which we test out value propositions and – only if there is real value for the other party – find some way of developing the relationship by finding some small way to collaborate. In this session, we learn and practice a useful tool (methodology) for structuring such conversations that - if used well – should result in ‘deals’.

    • 11:15 - 11:30    Break

    • 11:30 - 12:30    Sales tactics

      We like to believe that conversations with potential partners build their own momentum and that, if all goes well, they will eventually agree to a deal of some kind. Well, maybe, but the sales professionals have a myriad of tactics to ensure they’re talking to the right people, inject a sense of urgency and scope (and price) the project early, thereby weeding out ‘tyre-kickers’ early. For this session, we have invited a sales professional with years of experience in both industry and university settings to share some of the tactics he has advised everyone to use.

    • 12:30 - 13:30    Lunch

    • 13:00 - 14:45    Managing academics and KT colleagues

      One of the hallmarks of a Business Development Manager is that they have the responsibility to create new relationships but limited authority to negotiate and agree the final terms. This can easily result in internal friction and frustration. We see evidence of this in the final case presentations where over half of the ‘problems’ reported are generally internal. In this session, we study one extremely problematic case where the BDM has generated new business but the relationship has become mired in internal controversy and politics. We disentangle what has gone wrong and what the BDM should have done differently.

    • 14:45 - 15:15    Break

    • 15:15 - 16:15    Keeping the deal on track – managing the relationship

      Once you have secured an entry to an organisation and they are interested in your idea how do you make sure that the deal is completed as you’d like and how do you make sure that this first deal can lead to many more? This session outlines the key elements of managing an initial relationship to become a successful long-term partnership.

    • 16:15 - 17:30    Case study discussion continued

      You are asked to discuss the case study that you selected yesterday evening – preparing a brief 5-minute presentation, outlining the opportunity, the problem and the team’s suggestions for moving forward with it.Agree on your approach and nominate one member of the team (not the person whose case it is) to present after coffee on Friday)

  • Fri 05 March 2021

    • 09:00 - 10:00    Capturing the essence of an agreement

      Once a verbal agreement has been reached the final terms need to be written down and turned into a legal agreement, you may not write that agreement but it is your responsibility to make sure that the terms are clear and workable? 

      In this session, we attempt to disentangle an agreement negotiated by an academic, turning a vague ‘wish list’ into a clear memorandum of understanding.

    • 10:00 - 11:00    What businesses want from Business Development Managers

      We welcome a number of our opposite numbers - those in businesses who are involved in building relationships and concluding deals with universities. We encourage them to tell us what they find frustrating and how we can be better partners.

    • 11:00 - 11:30    Break

    • 11:30 - 12:45    Building Strategic Partnerships

      All universities want to build longer-term relationships with businesses (strategic account management) to move beyond negotiating a series of smaller projects into something altogether more ‘strategic’ and broader. This could involve a major investment in research infrastructure based on trust and mutual understanding or a framework agreement. In this reflective exercise, we ask how one university grew a single studentship into a major alliance over a number of years, examining the things they did properly, as well as the things that could have derailed the relationship.

    • 12:45 - 13:30    Lunch

    • 13:30 - 15:30    Overcoming barriers, internal and external

      We devote this final session to discussing your own cases: ones where you have identified a real opportunity or impasse to which you can apply some of the learnings and strategies covered in the course. Some will be internal issues blocking the commercialisation, others, will be issues of finding a partner or structuring the right deal with a potential partner

    • 15:30 - 15:45    Wrap up


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