‘It’s Great That We’re Creating, But Let’s Own Some Things As Well’: Commercializing Tech Transfer

‘It’s Great That We’re Creating, But Let’s Own Some Things As Well’: Commercializing Tech Transfer

Because you never know what’s going to disrupt the next industry, businesses have to be involved in innovation.

It’s not an option anymore, says Janeya Griffin and Demetria Gallagher, entrepreneurs and experts in technology transfer.

Griffin is the founder and CEO of The Commercializer, a consultancy that monetizes intellectual assets — your ideas. She is a certified entrepreneurial technology commercialization expert in technology transfer. Griffin works for NASA as a tech transfer specialist contractor. She’s taking innovations that have been created for mission- specific goals and transferring them into commercial industry.

Gallagher is the co-founder and president of a consulting firm called The Jamii Group, which focuses on diversity, innovation and social impact. In a previous life, she worked for seven years in the Barack Obama administration as a White House appointee, working with minority-owned businesses, helping them get access to contracts, capital and financing, and focusing on inclusive innovation.

Together, Griffin and Gallagher are pooling their resources and venturing out, creating a partnership to work on commercialization in the inclusive-innovation space. They’re moving technologies from mind to market, and in the process, they’re changing the narrative of their own lives — from employees to employers.

Griffin and Gallagher spoke to Moguldom on the sidelines of the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit 2017 this month in San Francisco.

Demetria Gallagher: One thing that’s very important to us is to change the narrative on diversity, inclusion, and innovation. We feel that it got a little stagnant. We want to kind of level-up the conversation to get people interested. Hiring minorities in tech companies is important. We are not only employees, we’re employers. (We’re talking about) the importance of commercializing STEM-related products and services, and using tech transfer in research and development, the federal government and the private sector to do so.

Janeya Griffin: I work with NASA but ventured out to start The Commercializer. I’m the CEO and founder of that.  We find independent inventors or people who have any type of idea and walk them through what that strategy looks like to create a roadmap to commercialization. Does that mean taking your lifestyle company or your lifestyle idea and incorporating some form of technology in it so now you can become part of the technology industry?

So now your company is technology-based. That is a big, important aspect because technology is at the forefront of innovation. So we think it’s very important that not only does the diversity community know about the access that they have to technology or the access that they have to become entrepreneurs, but they can also create a competitive advantage for their companies so that they can continue to scale up, continue to stay in front of innovation and keep creating companies.

I came to Black Enterprise to connect with this community, to connect with individuals within the tech space and to talk to them about what we’re doing because I think it’s very important. A lot of people don’t know about technology transfer, about commercialization, about licensing, about the importance of intellectual property and patenting. It’s great that we are all creating, but let’s own some things as well.

Moguldom: What is tech transfer?

Janeya Griffin: Technology transfer is creating a technology or idea for one specific application and then taking the functionality of that and transitioning it or transferring it for a completely different industry than what it was created for (in the American market).

Demetria Gallagher: In our previous life in the government we helped a lot of minority businesses or the minority business community understand the importance of federal research and development. The federal government spends about $140 billion in this space and there are 300 federal labs around the country but unfortunately, a lot of minorities are not engaged in the R&D practices there. We really want to let people know that along with the private sector, the federal government is the premier innovator when it comes to a lot of things that we see in the space today — like your iPhone.

Janeya Griffin: Yes like Siri in your iPhone, the camera in your iPhone, GPS, memory foam mattresses, Kevlar vests, baby food — there’s a wide variety and people don’t know that the things we’re using every day have stemmed from a federal lab.

Demetria Gallagher: Corporations use this technology to advance their business model, but of course to make money (too). A lot of non-minority universities use the federal government, but communities of color just aren’t engaged. We want to change the argument from “coding is good,” but we need to get people to understand that if you own the research and development, you’re able to commercialize so the American marketplace can benefit.

Moguldom: The White House administration is completely different now. What’s the future of innovation?

Demetria Gallagher: I think that any business needs to understand it’s no longer an option to be involved in innovation. You kind of have to have like a GPS lens when it comes to innovation. Last year I was a speaker at Black Enterprise about this topic. I came this year to help elevate the conversation, but really to get people to understand that you never know what’s going to disrupt the next industry. We have the Ubers of the world. We have the Amazons. (I want people to) really understand that if you’re not on the pulse of innovation, you’re going to be left behind — to be creative to know how you can use that great innovation to start businesses and to be different.

I think in the next five-to-10 years we’re going to see a lot of businesses that are going to jump out and be on their hustle to make sure that they’re really going to do something unique in the space like a lot of big corporations have done.

Janeya Griffin: People have to really focus on continuing to innovate because they’ll get left behind, and if you’re not developing, if you’re not innovating, you don’t want to be in that batch that becomes like the Blockbusters, Toy “R” Us. They’re all going out of business.

Demetria Gallagher: How many companies have we seen close down? A lot of it involves e-commerce and delivery. If someone had told us 10 years ago we’d be jumping in the car with strangers for rides, we wouldn’t have believed it. Now we’re going to get our groceries delivered to us. We just have to remember that all the concentration is focused on Silicon Valley. I’m from the south side of Chicago. There’s a lot of innovation in these nodes where people don’t understand there’s untapped talent. We’re here in our partnership to make sure people understand that the minority community is the untapped talent that we need for the next era of innovation.