2014 CSUPERB - I2P Early Stage Biotechnology Commercialization Challenge: Competition Information, Judging Criteria and Frequently Asked Questions

Competition Information

The CSUPERB-I2P® Challenge is fundamentally about entrepreneurial education. The learning outcomes were discussed in a CSUPERB blog post (2/28/13).

Details of the competition can be found in the official Competition Package; make sure to read the entire document carefully as a team. If teams have questions, don't hesitate to contact CSUPERB (or call 619-594-2822).

This is a student competition. Teams will be formed by FOUR (4) students: two must be science/engineering/technology students; two must be business/marketing/entrepreneurship students. Both CSU undergraduates and graduates are eligible to compete. Final team rosters can include only CSU students registered for the winter 2014 term so that prizes can be awarded. All final team members must attend the preliminary and final presentations in Santa Clara, California. No teleconferencing or video presentations are allowed. Ten (10) minute presentations can be made by one or all team members. All team members must be on stage to answer the judges' questions during the 10 minute question and answer period immediately after the presentation.

Student teams must designate one CSU employee (faculty/staff/administrator) as the team's point-of-contact. CSUPERB will email all official 2014 Challenge information and updates to the designated point-of-contact only. If student teams cannot identify a mentor, contact the CSUPERB Program Office so that we can help.

Even though each team needs one campus point-of-contact, there is no limit on the number of advisors or mentors a team can involve. We encourage teams to reach out and off-campus to mentors with expertise or access to expertise in marketing, IP law, business development and/or biotechnology commercialization, primary customers, patients or patient advocacy groups, etc. Mentors may be CSU faculty/staff, but also alumni or external advisors.

It is NOT a business plan competition. Competing teams and mentors must understand this distinction to compete successfully. The aim is not to start-up new companies or commercialize CSU intellectual property. Successful I2P teams will not have done enough work to present business plans to investors (yet!). The focus of the competition is on product concept definition in response to initial customer feedback or market assessments.

2014 Judging Criteria

The most important overall criterion is that the "match" between the technology and market must represent an economically sustainable opportunity.

1. Product/Service - 30% of score

2. Technology - 20%

3. Customer & Market - 20%

4. Technology Product Status & Next Steps - 20%

5. Competition (including understanding of intellectual property issues) - 10%

6. Economic Sustainability

Frequently Asked Questions (including answers to questions received during the 2013 competition)

2014 Questions (none received yet)

2013 Questions

2013Q: Our team is just getting started now that the fall term has started. Are we too late to compete successfully?

A: No. Typical I2P competitions last only one term; many I2P teams progress on to business plan competitions in the spring. Last year's pilot was run during the Fall 2011 term only. We decided to advertise the competition early this year so that we'd have a robust competition. That said, 2012 Sac State team member, Rebecca Dalton wrote, "If there is any advice I can provide to teams who wish to compete in the future, I think the most important is to get started now." [2014 Update: about 50% of the 2013 teams started work in the spring. Winning teams reported each team member put in 40-80 hours of work on the competition.]

2013Q: Do all four students need to be at the CSU Biotechnology Symposium to compete?

Yes. As we say in the Competition Package's Team Eligibility section (page 4), "Practice and final presentations must be made in person (no video or web-casts allowed) by all four team members at the CSU Biotechnology Symposium." The symposium is held Thursday - Saturday. Practice presentations are given to preliminary judges on Thursday afternoon. Final presentations are given to the finals judges on Saturday afternoon. I2P winners will be announced at the Saturday evening banquet. CSUPERB will provide registration, lodging and meals at the Anaheim Marriott for competing I2P team members; in addition each student competitor will be eligible for up to $150 in travel reimbursements.

2013Q: How many prizes will be given out?

A: There will be one winning team (4 students). We expect to make awards (totaling at least $5000) based on the number of finalist teams competing. If a large number of teams submit one-page summaries, the initial judging panel may have to narrow the field to a smaller set of finalists so that there is time at the symposium for all team presentations.

2013Q: Is there a difference (or advantage or disadvantage?) in having undergrad and/or graduate student participants on the competition teams?

A: No – not really. Students usually begin enthusiastically and are eager to compete. Sometimes we see graduate students dive deeper into market research or the technology relative to undergrads, but this is not always an advantage. [2014 Update: The winning strategy for 2013 teams was outreach - on- and off-campus - to expert networks and potential customers. The 2013 judges did not think there was a detectable difference between graduate and undergraduate level student competitors; student status is not part of the judging criteria.]

2013Q: Is the I2P competition team usually part of a class?

A: No. At UT Austin, some I2P teams are enrolled together in a course. Others work outside or parallel to a related class. The UT Austin entrepreneurship society organizes general seminars related to I2P judging categories. Clarification after webinar:  CSUPERB hopes that campus I2P teams can draw upon faculty, staff, alumni networks, entrepreneurial centers or competitions ongoing on campus. Competing teams do not have to be part of a CSU course or program. Faculty or mentor consultations with I2P teams are encouraged – we don’t want teams to work “in a vacuum”! [2014 Update - teams might want to use web-based expertise. For instance, Steve Blank offers a free, online "customer development" course on Udacity that is quite worthwhile.]

2013Q: How do you connect teams with technology?

A: Last year's winning team from Sac State worked on an idea they ran across in lab. Students at UT Austin often contact their Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) directly. There are similar contacts to be made through Offices of Research on CSU campuses; we expect campus-based inventions will be disclosed using campus processes. CSUPERB also suggests browsing our grants database to find faculty working in interesting areas of biotechnology. As a reminder - the novel service, technology or product does not have to be proven to work, prototyped, or run through a proof-of-principle exercise to compete successfully. In fact teams commonly concentrate too much on the technology and fail to address the other judging criteria.

2013Q: Is there a certain expectation that the products must be biotechnology-based or that the product can serve biotechnology customers?

A: Yes. This is a biotechnology competition. We expect the products/services pitched will represent a union of biology and technology in some way or will have an underlying biotechnology component. As a wacky example: an accounting mobile phone application to help biotechnology companies comply with Sarbanes-Oxley regulations would NOT be eligible for this competition (no biology needed). Medical device concepts are explicitly included and eligible for the competition. CSUPERB is happy to listen to ideas and help teams hone in on biotechnology concepts; CSUPERB program office staff will not be judging the competition.

2013Q: Why the focus on biotechnology products?

A: CSUPERB, the sponsor of this competition, is a biotechnology education and research program. Many biotechnology or life science products have notoriously long product development "lifecycles." As a result early-stage biotechnology companies often need to array strategic partners and significant financing to fund product development. Biotechnology products often face regulatory hurdles and safety issues that other technologies do not since they might have human health or nutrition applications. Human health product buyers and markets are typically "payors" like insurance companies and hospital purchasing programs, not necessarily physicians or patients. Successful CSUPERB-I2P teams will understand and be able to explain the implications of this unique business and regulatory environment.

2013Q: Can we propose medical device products?

A: CSUPERB's "definition" of biotechnology is the "fusion of biology and technology." CSUPERB explicitly includes medical devices in this definition. You can see the Biotechnology Industry Organization's (BIO) list of sectors and applications here.

2013Q: Are biotechnologies described in the CSUPERB grants database part of patent filings?

A: Not necessarily. By contacting the faculty principal investigator you can start figuring out the intellectual property (IP) status. Teams need to address the IP landscape around their idea and product/service for the I2P competition. As a result they need "freedom-to-operate" with the idea; likewise inventors should be protected. If teams choose to work with a CSU inventor, campuses should make sure they are backed by invention disclosures, at minimum. If biotechnologies are the intellectual property of alumni, non-CSU collaborators, or national labs - agreements should be worked out.

2013Q: How do you know what intellectual property can be shared publicly (via one-pager, five-pager or at presentations)?

A: The key is to figure out what is "enabling." As one simple example, if you talk about a "new knee brace" - that is not specific and it is unlikely anyone listening or reading could re-invent or re-engineer your product. But if you give details about how the knee brace is designed or what specific materials are used - someone might be "enabled" to re-invent or re-engineer your knee brace. Biotechnology products tend to be complex. As a consequence, it is usually difficult to provide enabling details in short documents or talks. But you should consult with an intellectual property expert on your campus (or ask CSUPERB for a referral).

2013Q: What happens when the faculty inventor does not agree with the product development idea?

A: This is a student competition. Faculty inventors are encouraged to "let go" of their discoveries and see what student teams come up with rather than prescribing product/service outcomes. UT Austin faculty have found student teams are wildly creative and generate viable product ideas on their own. We find most CSU biotechnology faculty singled out by teams were willing and enthusiastic to help out. Previous CSU teams found that faculty mentors tend to emphasize the technology at the expense of time needed to address other judging criteria. This is one reason CSUPERB and UT Austin suggest that teams should reach out to multiple faculty mentors, potential customers, marketing experts, entrepreneurial centers, and regional economic development groups on- and off-campus!

2013Q: Should or can the five page summaries include visuals or graphics? 

A: Teams are encouraged to do so! Example included in the competition package appendix is “old style!” But we use an old-style example to drive home the judging criteria. Other winning competition packages and videos are available at the I2P website (relatively few are biotechnology related). We highly suggest teams view presentation videos at the I2P websites to get a sense of the competition!

For information about this program, contact:

Susan Baxter
Executive Director, CSUPERB
(619) 594-2822