A fresh take on summer school boosts SUNY’s commercialization pipeline

A detailed article on SUNY’s Startup Summer School program appears in the November issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here. In popular culture, summer school remains stereotyped as a place for playing catch-up. However, the Albany, NY-based SUNY Research Foundation, which serves The State University of New […]

A detailed article on SUNY’s Startup Summer School program appears in the November issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe access the complete article, or for further subscription details, click here.

In popular culture, summer school remains stereotyped as a place for playing catch-up. However, the Albany, NY-based SUNY Research Foundation, which serves The State University of New York and its 64-campus system, is turning that stereotype on its head — even amid a pandemic — via the SUNY Startup Summer School (S4).

“S4 feeds our technology commercialization and entrepreneurship pipeline better than any other program,” says Nicholas Querques, director of new ventures.

“A number of our S4 participating teams have had success in securing nondilutive and equity funding rounds on the back end of this accelerated entrepreneurial education and training program,” says Querques. “Having our companies raise nondilutive funding through large government grants ranging from $100,000 to over $1 million per grant, or go into the market and raise capital from commercial investors — those are the outcomes that we are driving toward.”

Launched in 2019, S4 is an inclusive, equal-opportunity accelerator program, points out Querques. “We offer it to every student, faculty, and staff member across SUNY’s 64 campuses, and they are answering the call. Summer 2021 program enrollment grew 20% year over year. Participants included 153 faculty, students, and staff from 22 different SUNY campuses.”

This growth occurred despite the fact that S4 was entirely virtual in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, says Querques. “In 2019, we started out with a hybrid approach, and ideally we would like to go back to some type of hybrid that includes in-person touchpoints for the community-building aspect. However, we have been able to grow our enrollment the last two years even with a 100% virtual program.”

To help generate serious interest and accelerate S4’s most promising entrepreneurial teams post-graduation from the program, SUNY Research Foundation offers seed funding through S4’s culminating Demo Day pitch event. “We provided the opportunity for the top two ventures from both the Classes of 2020 and 2021 to each win a $10,000 Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF) catalyst investment,” explains Querques. TAF is the SUNY Research Foundation’s long-standing proof-of-concept seed fund.

S4 is designed to provide participants with a high-level understanding of what it might be like to actually commercialize their technology, says Querques. “It’s all about the entrepreneurial journey, focusing on three main components: interactive instructional webinars from expert speakers, customer discovery and market validation training for participants who are ready to take that step, and proposal development and writing support.”

The 2021 participants created 18 I-Corps teams, and 15 teams participated in the Demo Day pitch competition. SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras attended Demo Day to watch some of the pitches and announce the co-winning teams from Stony Brook University and Upstate Medical University, which each received a $10,000 TAF catalyst investment.

“While S4 includes standard bootcamp-style education, we have a laser focus on nondilutive funding opportunities, spending a significant portion of the program focused on them,” points out Querques. “We teach participants how to write grant proposals, how to manage budgets, and most importantly, how to engage with the funding agencies.”

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