The role of a Proof of Concept Center in a university ecosystem: an exploratory study

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Catarina Maia
João Claro
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The Proof of Concept phase in university technology transfer is considered to be critical for the success of both licensing and the creation of spin-off companies. In the United States, Proof of Concept Centers are emerging as successful structures to address the challenges of this phase. In this paper, we present a framework to assess the role for such a structure in a university ecosystem. The framework is built from previous references that we use to explicitly link the features of Proof of Concept Centers with the challenges of the Proof of Concept phase, and establish their specific contributions to the overall technology commercialization efforts of a university. We illustrate the application of this framework in a case study of the University of Coimbra, in Portugal, and develop a characterization that is representative of the role that a Proof of Concept Center can play in comparable university ecosystems that feature conventional technology commercialization structures, and struggle with the challenges of the Proof of Concept phase. Our study suggests that there is in fact a possible role for a Proof of Concept Center in the regional ecosystem of the University of Coimbra, with a potentially very relevant impact in the technology commercialization process, through networking outside academia and research environments, funding of Proof of Concept activities, and technology entrepreneurship education for the development of entrepreneurial skills for researchers.