Corporate sponsors can be very generous contributors to incubator facilities and universities. They sponsor labs, equipment, and other very public areas to gain visibility. It is important at the same time to realize that these companies exist to create profits – their own. They desire to gain access to new technologies and advances in product areas pertinent to their lines of business.
Corporations have been known to advance technologies that can benefit them and also to retard the development of technologies that compete with their business via ownership. It is also beneficial for large companies to adopt innovation and automation to improve their bottom line at their pace… better to innovate and automate than innovate and create jobs.
Creating is where true entrepreneurs actually take over - creating products, companies, and jobs – particularly when manufacturing products. Performing advanced research projects for big companies can be beneficial….but something start-ups should go into with open eyes and an understanding of their intellectual property rights. Understand what value you may be giving up before you do – because you won’t get it back inexpensively.
It is a vulnerable time for start-ups – when they don’t have any money. Then a sponsor comes along and offers some paid project work – advanced research for them. The money is the sheep’s clothing, the unprotected intellectual property – the lamb, and the sponsor - the potential wolf. Competitive positioning is the trap that determines the future of the concept.
This is not intended to say that sponsors and advanced research are bad things – they are vital components; but it is equally important for the entrepreneur to understand their long term goals…..and what they potentially would be giving up.
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