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Jacobs Institute at Cornell Tech Launches the Runway Program, a New Model for Postdoctoral Entrepreneurs

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute at Cornell Tech announced today that six postdocs are joining the campus for the first Runway Program, an innovative new model for technology entrepreneurs at the PhD level to advance their research and launch new ventures. Prof. Uzi de Haan, a global leader in tech entrepreneurship and the founder of the Technion’s Bronica Entrepreneurship Center in Israel, will lead the one-year program. Cornell and Technion professors will serve as academic mentors for the postdocs, who will also work with a team of legal, industry and venture capital advisors from outside the campus. If a postdoc has a project ready to be launched as a company, their Jacobs Institute-funded Runway Award serves as an investment in the development of the technology much like an angel investor’s cash investment might.

“The Runway Program takes its name from the fact that, unlike the now popular launchpad-like accelerator programs, which are generally focused on short-term market risk and customer development with proven technologies, new ventures based on deep technology carry different risks and need a longer time frame,” said Prof. de Haan. “Runway suggests a value-building process before taking off and is, therefore, a more appropriate analogue.”

“Uzi de Haan plays a pivotal role in entrepreneurship at the Technion, whose graduates are among the most successful in creating value through innovation. I am thrilled to welcome Uzi to the Jacobs Institute, where the Runway postdocs – and everyone on campus – will benefit from his expertise,” said Adam Shwartz, the new Director of the Jacobs Institute.

“The Jacobs Runway Program is exactly what Cornell Tech is about – tackling real-world problems with technological solutions, and giving researchers the tools and support they need to turn their ideas into realities,” said Daniel Huttenlocher, Dean of Cornell Tech. “We look forward to having the postdocs and Uzi on campus, continuing to build Cornell Tech’s entrepreneurial culture.”

“With the constant growth and evolution of technology, it’s critical that universities and researchers work together in a new way to promote cutting edge research, and transform their ideas into new ventures,” said Prof. de Haan. “The entrepreneurship center at the Technion is a hub of activity with students, faculty and alumni working together – a model that will be a perfect fit for the Jacobs Runway Program.”

De Haan is an international leader in tech entrepreneurship, with expertise in emerging ventures, strategy, and the commercialization of intellectual property at universities. He previously served as founder and CEO of Philips Electronics in Israel, where he built a $350 million company through acquisitions, venture investments and organic growth. In 2003, de Haan returned to the Technion in an academic capacity as a professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, with a research and teaching focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. He also serves on the boards of several start-ups.

The inaugural group of six postdocs was selected from applicants around the world based on their academic and professional track records, their proposed enterprise and their entrepreneurial passion. They will work on research and development projects in the fields of healthcare, e-commerce and urban planning, and they will have access to a support team to help advance their work, some of which may launch into start-up companies. They will be working out of Cornell Tech’s temporary campus at the Google building in Chelsea.

The Jacobs Institute is piloting a new Intellectual Property (IP) model for the Runway Program, which positions the Institute as an investor in companies that spin out of the program. Typically, universities engage in substantial negotiations to license technologies developed on campus, but the program will give the company founded by a postdoc an exclusive license to use the technology that they develop in the program, in exchange for a stake in the company comparable to its initial Runway Award.

“We expect the kind of approach to IP being piloted here to become a model at Cornell Tech broadly, and at other academic institutions around the world. It is an example of the powerful collaboration of two leading academic institutions, Cornell and Technion, to envision and create change in technology commercialization,” said Dean Huttenlocher.

Cornell Tech is up and running with world-class faculty and M. Eng and PhD students who are working with the industry and on their own start-ups. The first class of students graduated at the end of 2013. The Jacobs Institute is currently admitting students for its M.S. degree program in Connective Media, which will launch in the fall of 2014. Students in this two-year program will receive degrees from both Technion and Cornell. Also in 2014, Cornell Tech will launch an MBA program in collaboration with Cornell’s Johnson School. The program will fuse business, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in a fast-paced, hands-on learning environment.

About Cornell Tech

Cornell University, with its academic partner the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, was selected by the City of New York in 2011 to build a world-class graduate campus as a way to capitalize on the growth in the science, technology and research fields in New York City and create a more diversified and competitive economy for the future.

Construction is underway on Cornell Tech’s sustainable 12-acre Roosevelt Island campus. The first phase of the campus will open in 2017, including the first academic building, a corporate co-location building that will foster interactions and collaboration between tech companies and Cornell Tech, an innovative sustainable residential building and public open space. The completed campus will include 2 million square feet of academic, residential and corporate research and development space, and will be home to more than 2,000 graduate students and nearly 280 faculty and staff.

About The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute

Through its degree programs and other academic initiatives, The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute at Cornell Tech embodies the academic partnership between the Technion and Cornell. At this think-tank, professors from these two globally renowned universities teach side-by-side with industry leaders, creating a new educational model that embraces experimentation to produce agile graduates poised to succeed in a fast-moving economy. The Institute departs from traditional academic departments and is organized into three interdisciplinary hubs selected fortheir relevance to the New York City economy: Connective Media, Healthier Life, and the Built Environment.

The Jacobs Institute was established in 2013 through an historic gift of $133 million from Dr. Irwin Mark Jacobs, Founding Chairman and CEO Emeritus of Qualcomm, and his wife Joan Klein Jacobs to Cornell and theTechnion.

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