|Year : 2015 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 40-43
Dental science and technology parks: Rethinking university-industry connections
Independent Research Scientist, Founder and Managing Editor of Dental Hypotheses, Isfahan, Iran
|Date of Web Publication||10-Jun-2015|
Dr. Jafar Kolahi
No. 24, Faree 15, Pardis, Shahin Shahr, Isfahan -83179 18981
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: Jafar Kolahi has editorial involvement with Dental Hypotheses.
As the 21st century unfolds, the development of science-based technologies [such as nanodentistry, tissue engineering, three-dimensional (3D) printers, laser dentistry, and computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM)] should change clinical dental practice. Unfortunately, a persistent problem in dentistry is the slow acceptance of new technology by dental schools and some dentists. Most dental graduates, dental faculty, and dental researchers know little about the principles of entrepreneurship, e.g., the process of patenting and licensing, how to write a business plan, market analysis, sources of financing, and the establishment of small and medium-sized enterprises. Most dental graduates, dental faculty, and dental researchers know little about the topics mentioned above. They may know how to conduct a dental research project and publish a paper, but most have no idea of how to plan for the commercialization of research findings. University-industry research relationships are important in promoting innovation, and dental science and technology parks (STPs) can play a major role in this technological revolution.
Keywords: Innovation, research, science and technology park (STP), technology, entrepreneurship
|How to cite this article:|
Kolahi J. Dental science and technology parks: Rethinking university-industry connections. Dent Hypotheses 2015;6:40-3
A university research, science and technology park (STP) is designed to cultivate innovation and increase scientific and industrial motivation by supporting university-industry and government collaboration. An STP creates high-technology economic development and knowledge. There are many synonyms for STP, for example, "university research park," "science park," "technology park," "technopolis," and "biopark."  The International Association of STPs (IASP) stated that "A STP is an organization managed by specialized professionals, whose main aim is to increase the wealth of its community by promoting the culture of innovation and the competitiveness of its associated businesses and knowledge-based institutions." 
Silicon Valley (USA) was a pioneer in the development of the STP for the the rest of the world. Originally known as Stanford University Science Park, the existence of Silicon Valley as a haven for techno-innovation dates back to the early 1950s. Nowadays, there are over 400 STPs worldwide and their number is growing. At the top of the list of countries is the USA, reported to have more than 150 STPs. Japan is second with 111 STPs. 
Since about the 1990s, STPs have endeavored to minimize the gap between the business community and the academic and research communities. By promoting technology transfer, the STPs simplify access for businesses to innovation infrastructures, venture capitalists, technological facilities, and social capital.
By promoting the founding, acceleration, and internationalization of business activities in close connection with universities, science parks offer business growth and networking services plus synergy and image benefits.
STPs support the creation, growth, and internationalization of science-based business and growth companies. They offer their customers an innovation-friendly operating environment that activates growth, business development services, cooperation in programs and projects, and key contacts and network connections.
Key functions of the STP concept include:
- Creation and development of business premises, working environments, and science park services;
- Business development, entrepreneurship for growth, and the creation of new technology-intensive business;
- National and regional development programs and projects, and the organization of their planning and implementation; and
- Providing new ideas for running more clinical trials.
Through a dynamic and innovative mix of policies, programs, quality space and facilities, and high value-added services, they contribute to economic development by:
- Stimulating and managing the flow of knowledge and technology between universities and companies;
- Facilitating the communication between companies, entrepreneurs, and technicians;
- Providing environments that enhance a culture of innovation, creativity, and quality;
- Focusing on companies and research institutions as well as on people: The entrepreneurs and "knowledge workers"; and
- Facilitating the creation of new businesses via incubation and spin-off mechanisms, and accelerating the growth of small and medium-sized companies.
As the 21st century unfolds, the development of science-based technologies [such as nanodentistry, tissue engineering, three-dimensional (3D) printers, laser dentistry, and computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM)] should change clinical dental practice. Unfortunately, a persistent problem in dentistry is the slow acceptance of new technology by dental schools and some dentists. For example, although x-rays were discovered in 1895, not a single dental school in the US taught, before 1913, dental radiology as a major diagnostic tool.  Another example would be amorphous calcium phosphate. Basic research on it began in the 1960s, and it was used as a preventive product to treat incipient dental decay by demineralization. It was introduced into the market only in 2004. 
University-industry research relationships are important for promoting innovation, and dental STPs can play a major role in this technological revolution. According to SCImago Journal & Country Rank, more than 157936 citable documents were published in the dental field between 1996 and 2013 [Figure 1].  Yet, how successful were we in turning the discoveries reported in these publications into technology? While there are no data to provide a response to this question, at best we can say that our success rate is fair. If this is the case, then the question is, why were we not more successful in the transfer of scientific discoveries into technology? To answer this question we should answer another question first: Do dental schools have programs in place to provide dental students, clinical practitioners, and research scientists with courses on the following?
|Figure 1: Number of citable dental documents published in different areas of the world between 1996 and 2013 according to SCImago Journal & Country Rank|
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- Principles of entrepreneurship.
- The process of patenting and licensing.
- How to write a business plan.
- Market analysis.
- Sources of financing.
- Establishment of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Most dental graduates, dental faculty, and dental researchers know little about the topics mentioned above. They may know how to conduct a dental research project and publish a paper, but most have no idea of how to plan for the commercialization of their research findings. However, since about 200, such programs have been developed at some dental schools. 
What could be the role of dental STPs in developing an idea into a new dental service, technology, equipment, or product, by dental school faculty, students, or practitioners? [Figure 2] shows the steps required to launch from a new idea into a dental product.
|Figure 2: Steps in launching a new technology, equipment, or products from a primary idea|
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If an idea generates a testable hypothesis, a research project will be started and will include a review of the relevant literature, in vivo and in situ preliminary studies, and perhaps a pilot clinical trial. For the scientist, a challenge at this early stage is securing the necessary financial support to carry out the research. Because the idea may be revolutionary or just evolutionary, and because dental schools are often conservative, the idea may not get funded, and it may end up as only a student research project. Assuming that his/her research shows promise, after graduation the student may decide to become a dental entrepreneur instead of a clinical practitioner or an academic faculty member. However, this decision should not be taken lightly: It may present one of the greatest, most challenging decisions in the young dentist's life and may even involve serious risks. The commercialization of an idea means dealing with and overcoming many types of risk, including personal risks; those that affect family and friends; legal risks involving patents, lawyers, and lawsuits; manufacturing risks, such as fabrication of the product, delivery dates, and rejected products; and financial risks.  To evaluate these risks, dental entrepreneurs should have the following personal characteristics:
- Being innovative,
- Being highly self-motivated,
- Being a risk-taker,
- Being a team worker,
- Putting in hard work with disciplined dedication.
If the decision is made to commercialize the research finding, the next step should be a meeting with the director of the nearest STP to chart the best pathway to success.
The application process for the STP's director should begin with the presentation of a business plan. Writing a business plan will present another challenge, as dental students, while they may have the skills needed to write a clinical research proposal, are not likely to be familiar with the principles of business plan writing. However, after admission to a STP, dental entrepreneur will have an office with adequate infrastructure. Dental entrepreneur must establish a new company and develop his or her own working team. New established company will receive some funds from the STP, and dental entrepreneur can attend lectures relevant to entrepreneurial concepts, e.g., market analysis, principles of negotiation, how to write a contract, and government policies. At this time, dental entrepreneur can breathe in a technology-oriented space that values innovation. Dental entrepreneur can experience a different environment from an academic dental school.
Following admission to a STP, dental entrepreneur should patent his or her innovation. Patenting may pose a great challenge for a clinical researcher. We generally know little about intellectual property rights. Most dental schools do not provide courses about patenting, licensing, and the technology transfer process. STPs generally provide consulting services in this context. A note of caution for dental researchers is that the publication of a research finding before a patent application has been filed may interfere with the patent registration process in some cases. After a patent is registered, dental entrepreneur can start negotiations with relevant manufacturers and venture capitalists.
Now dental entrepreneur has attended business plan courses, had discussions with consultants at STP, and have enough time to write a full business plan. What is the importance and purpose of a business plan?
- To serve as a clear statement of business mission and vision,
- to map the future and the timeline for achieving goals and objectives,
- to attract financing,
- to attract team members,
- to analyze of major competitors and strategies for facing them,
- an analysis of revenues, costs, and projected profits,
- to provide a description of marketing strategies,
- to support a strategic exit.
The next step is funding. Many entrepreneurs fight to find the funds to start a new business. Banks are not always adventurous lenders. As the successful entrepreneur Phil Holland explains, "Many prospective business owners are disappointed to learn that banks do not make loans to start-up businesses unless there are outside assets to pledge against borrowing." Several entrepreneurs just do not have enough assets to get a secured loan from a lending institution. STPs generally provide some funds for start-up entrepreneurs. These funds generally cover the costs of the primary steps, i.e.,. market analysis and prototyping, and semi-industrial production. Government programs are another source of funding for entrepreneurs. Many national and regional governments offer programs to encourage small and medium enterprises. For example, in the US, the Small Business Administration is a federal government agency that provides funds for entrepreneurs.
Venture capital investors are the main source of funding for early-stage start-up companies that show a robust potential for growth. However, venture investors insist on retaining part-ownership in the new companies that they fund. The important point is, thus, that venture capitalists require a business plan that shows the probability of success. They are usually interested in industries with high-growth potential, such as tissue engineering and nanotechnology-based dental materials.
The final step at an STP will be prototyping. This step will be very important for start-up dental entrepreneurs. At this step, prototype fabrication of products using the facilities of the park, e.g., laboratories, machineries, and semi-industrial production facilities will be very helpful. For example, converting discoveries into biotechnology- or nanotechnology-based products may need specialized equipment and facilities, which will not be affordable for start-up companies outside of a STP. Also, if phase II or III clinical trials are started, dental entrepreneurs should work closely with regulatory agencies, e.g., European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and according to Good Clinical Practice (GCP). Dental entrepreneurs will experience the greatest challenges at this step. They should not work with regulatory agencies without any previous experience or education. Advice from peers at STPs who are familiar with the approval process of regulatory agencies will be very important.
After this step, the dental entrepreneurs will have matured enough to get ready for moving beyond the STP. Now they can transfer the new technologies, equipment, or products to an existing large company and get a royalty or establish a new factory in an industrial park.
| Acknowledgment|| |
I would like to thank Isfahan Science & Technology Town (ISTT). The majority of this article is based on my experiences at ISTT. Also, I would like to acknowledge the pioneering works of Professor Edward F. Rossomando. Clearly, he is the father of academic dental entrepreneurship.
| References|| |
Kharabsheh R. Critical success factors of technology parks in Australia. Int J Econ Financ 2012;4:57.
Rossomando EF. The challenge for dental schools: Keeping up with the evolution of technology. Compend Contin Educ Dent 2009;30:124-5.
Rossoman EF. Dental industry and academia unite to foster product development. Compend Contin Educ Dent 2004;25:450,452-4.
Rossomando EF. Entrepreneurial training to promote careers in academic dentistry. Compend Contin Educ Dent 2004;25:652-4.
Rossomando EF. The risks of innovation. Compend Contin Educ Dent 2004;25:974, 976, 978 passim.
[Figure 1], [Figure 2]