Transforming Invention to Innovation — From PHD Student to CEO

Are you working on research that has the potential to be commercialized?

Are you looking to gain product development skills to complement your Master’s or PhD degree?

Would you like to lead innovation throughout your career?

If yes, then check out The Graduate Certificate in Science & Technology Commercialization. This pioneering certificate program equips graduate students and post-doctoral fellows with the management skills they need to make their inventions a commercial success.

The program is taught by leading faculty and Innovation scholars from SFU’s Beedie School of Business and provides frameworks, perspective and techniques that contribute to new product development and commercialization in industry, whether for an existing firm or start-up venture.  The Graduate Certificate in Science & Technology Commercialization develops skills such as opportunity assessment, market prioritization, innovation management, profiting from uncertainty, finance, leadership and how to develop and validate a business model.

The program is open to all graduate students, post-doctoral students, faculty and recent alumni of graduate programs in science, engineering, health and environmental sciences.  Participants will study part-time over three semesters, with classes held evening once a week at SFU’s Segal Graduate School, located in downtown Vancouver.

Ionomr – A Success Story

Benjamin Britton, a PhD candidate in Chemistry, was part of a team of Simon Fraser University chemists from the Holdcroft Group that had developed a polymer membrane that was the strongest and most durable of its kind.

In 2015, Benjamin participated in the Graduate Certificate in Science & Technology Commercialization to explore the viability of building a business around this research and invention. The result was the creation of Ionomr, with Benjamin leading the venture as CEO.  Today, Ionomr develops, adapts, and manufactures these high-performance membranes for water treatment, energy storage, and energy generation.

“The Graduate Certificate for Science and Technology Commercialization program really clarified what it was to have a business plan and what it meant to attract investors and actually sell the value of your product in non-technical terms,” says Britton. “Before, I would talk about the engineering side or the theoretical side, but that’s not what they mean. They want to know why this is worth investing in and how much money it could potentially make.”

Benjamin’s willingness to learn the business side of science is paying off. After graduating from the certificate program, Ionomr joined Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection®, SFU’s early stage start up incubator. At Venture Connection, Ionomr further refined the company’s value proposition, structure and funding models with the help of mentors and staff.

The result of their hard work, an impressive list of local and international awards, which included: The top prize at the 2016 Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize competition, named a Cleantech Emerging Rocket in both 2016 and 2017, and winning both the Hong Kong-Canada National Investment Pitch Competition and the SFU Invention to Innovation Venture Pitch Competition.

Today the company has raised over 1.6 million in funding and is expected to grow to 12-15 employees by end of 2017, with first sales expected in June. With full-time staff and clear growth strategy, Ionomr has now moved to Venture Labs, SFU’s growth staged accelerator.

“SFU provides connected pathways for entrepreneurs, first providing key skills for entrepreneurship, then helping high-potential ventures develop, scale and grow.” Says Britton. “Its been an intense journey however SFU’s support has pretty seamless and provided crucial guidance to Ionomr every step of the way.” 

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate of Science & Technology Commercialization

Learn more about Venture Connection®

Learn more about VentureLabs®