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CIV: Announcing the 2016Q1 Release of Coller Venture Review Issue #3 – Deep Innovation




Dear friend,

I am proud to announce the release of CIV’s third issue of Coller Venture Review, dedicated to Deep Innovation. We define Deep Innovation as inventions that are enabled by basic research or a scientific breakthrough. Unlike what we see in the ubiquitous Internet/Cyber/IT startups, Deep Innovation Venture usually entails substantial resources ($5-100M), and may take years (5-20) to materialize.

The issue includes ten articles that range from Nanotechnology to Food Tech and from Pharma to Materials Science. The authors come from varied backgrounds such as academia, industry and venture capital. Between them they share lessons learned, which can also inform and enlighten readers from other fields.

We look forward to engaging with you in the Coller Institute of Venture community. Join us as we design the future of venture!

Best regards,

Prof. Yesha Y. Sivan, Executive Director
Coller Institute of Venture at Tel Aviv University

Issue Contents:


Deep Innovation solving humanity's big problems needs more commitment

The introductory article to the issue introduces the class of heavy duty ventures we term “Deep Innovation”: those that are enabled by basic research or a scientific breakthrough, and that  usually require substantial resources and 5–20 years to materialize as a commercial success – if they do at all. These innovations often solve big problems that can transform our world, but they are thwarted by a number of obstacles, some financial, other organizational and cultural. This article details the challenges and points out that “…at the end of the day, the solution for enabling Deep Innovation is commitment – more commitment. Commitment from the players. Time commitment. Commitment to high-risk tolerance. Commitment to invest capital…”

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Deep Innovation a la TAU Nanotech centerThis article by Prof. Yael Hanein, the vital force behind Tel Aviv University’s Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, provides insight into a successful resolution of a major problem with Deep Innovation in academia. Between the required massive investment in infrastructure, the gap between academic mores and the needs of industry, and the necessity for multidisciplinary collaboration, it is very difficult to make university nanotech research cross the chasm into commercial relevance. The TAU Nano Center is a vibrant hub of research and cooperation that has already spun off multiple successful ventures, because it has found solutions to all these challenges; among other things, it has instilled “a ‘Nano Culture’ among the many researchers working in its facility… [which] consists of a mindset and day-to-day interactions that encourage the sharing and exchanging of views between researchers and students from diverse academic backgrounds”…

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Deep Innovation in the Medical domain a la boston's cimit

Today’s Healthcare field is facing major crises, including the aging of the population, the need to increase access for all to the best standard of care, and societal imperatives to contain healthcare-related costs. Unfortunately there are many challenges to innovation in this domain.

This article showcases CIMIT, the Consortia for Improving Medicine with Innovation & Technology, a Boston-based cooperation of universities and hospitals whose meticulously constructed suite of integrated methods and processes implements a solution to this difficult state of affairs. Referred to collectively as the CIMIT Model, the methodology described in the article is able to find, fund, and facilitate collaborations across disciplines and geographic regions that successfully drive innovative solutions to unmet medical needs from concept to patient care. Given the model’s effectiveness, CIMIT is now building on its success in the US to link hubs of medical innovation across the world into a network of consortia to address important regional healthcare imperatives…

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Deep Innovation and Brain Ventures

The gap is alarming: while “The plague of the 21st century is rooted in the brain. Nearly 100 million Americans suffer from CNS disorders, resulting in an annual economic cost of over $760 billion”, we read that “six of the ten largest pharmaceutical companies have sharply reduced their CNS-targeted drug development efforts”.

Dr. Bar-On’s  article deals with the unique challenges of the brain field and the obstacles that have so far led to the situation where we have no cure or disease-modifying therapy for any brain disorder, and as a consequence massive abandonment of the field by big pharma firms. The paper discusses new initiatives and innovation models set to bring back industry, government and academia into the complex game of Neuroscience, working together to advance the field and get the search for desperately needed cures back on track…

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Deep Innovation and pharamaceutical ventures

While there is no doubt about the benefit to humanity of pharmaceutical innovation, it remains a fact that new medicines are notoriously difficult to get into the hands of the people that need them so badly. Mr. Waisbourd, a vice president in the R&D division of a world leading pharma company, focuses in this article on what he terms “The Valley of Death”, the gap between academia and industry where many promising ideas get lost. The article takes us through the stages of the long journey from innovative idea to approved medicine, and looks in detail at the economic and organizational constraints that can break that journey during the Translational Research phases of Discovery and Preclinical development. It then exposes a number of potential solutions to this issue, some driven by the industry, some by governments, others by private foundations.

As the author points out, “Using the initiatives described here, scores of promising new medicines may be able to successfully cross the difficult Valley of Death chasm”. But much remains to be done, he cautions:  “Although all of these efforts are steps in the right direction, there is still no ‘magic bullet’ until fundamental changes are made to the intrinsic economics of translational research”…

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Deep Innovation with Graphene Technologies

This article takes an original approach to examine corporate strategies related to the creation, recombination and integration of the scientific and technological knowledge that enables them to pursue Deep Innovation in the exciting new field of Graphene nanotechnology. The authors analyzed the patent portfolios of 14 leading firms, and characterized them according to the origins and nature of the knowledge they embody, notably differentiating scientific and technological sources. The interplay between scientific and technological knowledge bases plays a key role in determining the innovativeness of these firms; and in fact the authors  found remarkable differences in the strategies of different firms, reflecting a different ability to develop deep Graphene-related innovations…

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Deep Innovation in Water Ventures

A commonly held perception is that one can’t make a profit from ventures in the water domain. Mr. Wiesner, the author of this article, begs to differ, bringing his considerable experience to look at both sides of this issue. He outlines the unique issues besetting Water as an investment domain, which stem from the general perception of water as a “free” resource, massive capital requirements, heavy regulation and more. He then explains how, despite these obstacles, water is poised to become a major field of venture in coming years. The increasing global need for water and the droughts that thwart it lead to many new opportunities for innovative companies that work on control, monitoring, desalination, reclamation and waste water management. The demand for innovation in this space is also linked to the emergence of Smart Cities and the smart water network technologies they require, and to the water-energy nexus – the close link of water and energy production projects.

As the article concludes, “water is on its way to becoming one of the main focus areas of corporate investors in the Clean-Tech space, offering a clear promise for meaningful and profitable investments”…

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Deep Innovation in food venturesBecause food production is seldom thought of as an area of innovation, this article is a real eye opener. Over the past decades, food technology has made food plentiful and affordable. Yet this paradigm is heading for a crisis, because – as people are increasingly noticing – this bounty has come with significant hidden costs to the public’s health, social equity, animal welfare and the planet’s natural environment. The article presents the birth of a group of companies re-inventing the way we think about food through revolutionary innovative technology. By applying learnings from biotechnology and medical science, data and food science, they are working to displace entire categories of food as we know them today. For example, there is a race on to produce meat that never saw an animal yet replicates the sensory experience of the food  we know, at an affordable price, without harming the Earth’s ecosystem…

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Deep Innovation with Irrigation Technologies

Making more with less is an attractive goal in any area, but nowhere does it solve a more critical need than in agriculture. Netafim’s slogan “Grow more with less” refers to more crop output with less water – an equation that can mean life or starvation to millions of people in a world of growing population and increasingly scarce water resources.

This article describes the story of Netafim, a company that began with one man’s idea – the concept of drip irrigation – and became a world leader in irrigation solutions. This impressive success story required not only a constant focus on technological innovation but also a strategy of collaboration with both end users and influential organizations that have access to them. Given the conservative nature of the farming population, there is much to learn from how Netafim managed to penetrate this market with it novel products…

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The Challenges of Deep Innovation From American Academia to the marketplace

This policy case study examines the strategies applied by the U.S. government, through its science funding agencies, to enable the development of new technologies or products based on scientific discoveries in U.S. Academic institutions. This has been a long standing challenge, with the time to market of many academic discoveries being as long as 20 years, and many of them never making it across the “valley of death” at all. Recognizing this challenge, the U.S.  National Science Foundation (NSF) has developed new programs with a specific objective of shortening the transition.

This article describes traditional and new U.S. NSF programs, including the SBIR and I-CORP programs, which aim to spur economic development based on basic science and engineering discoveries. The article also describes the challenges faced by U.S. academic institutions and commercial organizations during the process of technology or products development, for example, intellectual property protection and potential conflicts of interest. Finally, the importance of innovation education in facilitating the transition from basic science discovery to product development is highlighted…

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