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  • How easy is it for faculty members working at a reputable university to become entrepreneurs?

  • If the faculty member sees an opportunity for a great product and wants to set up a small office with a few engineers working with one or two students, will the university sponsor such a venture?

  • How enthusiastic or forthcoming will the industry and VCs in general be towards this?

  • Lastly, how common are such professor-run companies for, say engineering faculty in top US schools?

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    Who owns the copyright/patent of the research? Will the university claim ownership of the startup company? – siamii May 28 '12 at 4:28
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This is quite common in American universities, and there are probably thousands of start-ups that have arisen out of university-based research. The question of financing such a venture is of course a challenging one to answer, but with the right contacts, is usually available.

I can think of at least four or five such start-ups in the department I attended for graduate school, and I imagine there are several more in the planning stages.

As for how enthusiastic industry and VC's are, well, I think it depends entirely on the strength of the idea, and how "market-ready" the concept is. The sooner it's ready to go, the more enthusiastically people will flock to it.

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  • Who owns the copyright/patent of the research? Will the university claim ownership of the startup company? – siamii May 29 '12 at 19:53
  • Usually there's a patent- and revenue-sharing process at most universities. Typically the university will get some percentage of the total revenues, while the researchers get a substantial chunk (numbers I've seen vary from 30% to 70% of the total). – aeismail May 29 '12 at 21:02
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I think the main issue is that a lot of entrepreneural mindset is eliminated from faculty, but if the faculty has the right mindset there is no limitation to a venture, especially if the faculty has tenure.

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