From Pre-Competitive Research to Commercialization: Avoiding the “Valley of Death”

Mike Gust, Industry Liaison Officer CCEFPby Mike Gust, CCEFP Industry Liaison Officer

The mission of the CCEFP is to change the way fluid power is researched, applied and taught. The main method for accomplishing this is our pre-competitive fluid power research program. CCEFP students get excellent hands on training while completing their research project.

What is meant by pre-competitive research? In short this is research that precedes industry R & D and has the potential to benefit the entire industry. Many times it is necessary for institutions such as the CCEFP, other universities or national labs to champion this kind of effort, as the investment to do so is too great for any single company. Pre-competitive research typically does not go beyond the proof of concept stage. At that point the research or technology is offered to industry to take it fully into the commercial world as new products, systems or services. This transition is often times referred to as “the valley of death” and is shown pictorially below. I personally think that’s a little too ominous a description but there’s no question that it can be difficult to make this transition.

transition from pre-competitive research to commercialization

The good news is that the CCEFP is ready to help. Here are six proven ways industry can leverage to help with commercialization.

  1. Sponsor a research project at a university – If your company is staying abreast of the research going on in the CCEFP you will know when a pre-competitive idea has progressed enough to where your organization can step in and take over further commercialization. Many times it makes sense to sponsor a research project under your specific terms to help accelerate the process.
  2. Hire a graduating CCEFP student or a grad student intern – What better way to transfer knowledge than to hire the student that’s been working in the area you are interested in commercializing?
  3. Partner with a university to pursue additional government funding – The government is keenly interested in seeing any research it helps fund progress into the marketplace and create value and jobs. As such there are many government programs offered that can be used to further advance the area of interest towards commercialization. I recently gave a webinar on some of the available NSF programs ( that may be of interest. These programs typically require some degree of industry matching funds but are a great way to gain further leverage.

many government programs offered that can be used to further advance the area of interest towards commercialization

  1. Hire a university professor as a consultant – The professors in the CCEFP are true experts in their field. If you find yourself up against an obstacle give them a call to see if they can help.
  2. Partner with a university business school – Many times the obstacle to commercialization has nothing to do with the technology but rather whether the market is available. Most of the CCEFP universities have business school programs available that can determine the available market, as well as, the optimum value proposition.
  3. Entrepreneurial start-ups – The university environment is an excellent incubator for nurturing new start-up companies. The most likely exit strategy for these new companies is to either license their technology to established companies or to be acquired by an existing company.

To learn more about how the CCEFP can help with commercialization or if you have further questions on how to participate please contact Mike Gust ( or (612) 624-4991.

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