The Innovation to Market (I2M) course is an MBA for-credit elective at London Business School that is open to external applicants, entirely free of charge.
The I2M elective was born out of the realisation that we live in an era where technology-based innovation is more important than ever before and that the most successful businesses will be the ones who are able to bring promising technologies to market ahead of competitors.
Increasingly, LBS MBA students want to join early-stage technology-based businesses and partner with researchers to bring great technologies to market. Likewise, many researchers want to commercialise their research and are looking for partners with the business skills to make this happen.
The I2M course aims to build well-balanced teams around technologies that are ripe for commercialisation. We’ll bring together researchers and MBA students to form teams that will develop – and maybe even begin to execute on – a lean commercial strategy for an innovative technology.
Once at full-scale, we will welcome around 20 early-career, university-based research scientists per year into the class to study alongside 60 MBA students. For 2021, we are piloting the course with around half those numbers.
The external researchers will typically be ‘early career’ and wondering what to do next. They will have developed a technology and have ideas on how it could be used to create social or economic gain, and will be ready to invest the necessary time and energy in that process. However, they will realise that they lack the experience and tools to do so themselves and be looking for partners who can. They will also welcome the opportunity to work, as equals, with a team of experienced MBA students to produce a commercial strategy for their technology.
MBA students at LBS are all ‘post-experience’, meaning that they have years of experience in a wide swathe of sectors. Many will be hoping to move into leadership roles, for which they will need a solid understanding of how organisations and markets innovate, operate and compete. They are all in their second year of study and want to apply what they’ve learnt about driving technology-based innovation by working on a new technology from the ground up.
Five taught sessions over the autumn term (alternate Friday mornings, September-November 2021). During the ‘taught’ element of the course, you will learn a robust methodology for taking a new technology to market. Since virtually all technologies require substantial investment – often over multiple rounds – we will explore technology, market and financial strategies. Participants should commit to attending all these sessions in person and preparing (case and other readings) in advance.
A project during which you break into teams of four (comprising of one researcher and three MBA students) to develop a commercial plan for a technology proposed by the external researcher. This element commences as soon as project teams form – probably after the fourth taught session – and continues until the final presentations in March. It will involve team meetings twice a week and additional research amounting to around 30 hours. We offer regular team mentoring over this period of 45 minutes each.
Team presentations to early-stage investors and entrepreneurs, in mid-March 2022. These presentations are not pitches for investment; most of your putative ventures will not be ready for that yet. Rather we ask that you argue your strategy and welcome constructive feedback from the experts (just as you would do at any preliminary meeting with potential investors).
After each taught session, we will, as a cohort, convene for lunch so you have the chance to get to know each other. We will often invite a guest speaker to stimulate discussion. These lunches also offer a chance to discuss the different technologies, as a precursor to forming project teams.
There are five extended taught sessions followed by a major joint project and a final day of presentations. We anticipate that the time commitment for both LBS and external participants will be as follows:
|September 2021 – March 2022
||Location: London, face-to-face|
Five taught sessions running on Friday mornings (8:00-11:00am) followed by lunch.
Final Presentations: 18 March 2022 (Full day) – Present you project and listen to the others from your cohort.
Teaching at LBS is interactive and based on discussion of real cases, from which we construct a general methodology for technology commercialisation. Before each session we distribute a case study that exemplifies the theme of the session. We create mixed study groups to discuss the case beforehand. Each case highlights a major decision point, which acts as a springboard for faculty-led class debate and discussion around an aspect of commercialisation. Often, we invite an experienced guest speaker to share their own reflections on the theme. For these sessions, we have selected case studies that relate to early-stage technology commercialisation. We do not major on any one sector; rather we draw general learnings from the specific cases, developing analytic frameworks and methodologies that can be applied to any ‘ripe’ technology.
The I2M course is experiential by design. Once in groups, you work together to develop a commercial strategy for the technology. It is this project work, which is given importance and urgency by the looming investor presentations, that cements the classroom learning.
There are two main learning outcomes from the course. The first is an understanding of the methodology that, once learnt and applied to one project, can be applied to other technology-based commercial opportunities in the future.
The second is experience of forming and working in teams. This course provides a rare and valuable opportunity to work peer-to-peer with people who have complementary skills to your own. It gives participants the chance to understand each other’s mindsets, priorities and the roles each can play in a new venture team.
Of course, you’ll also enjoy the benefits of emerging from this course as a close-knit cohort. You will have spent considerable time getting to know each other. Experience of similar courses tells us that this network remains largely intact and that many of your friendships and venture teams will continue long after the course is over.
For the researcher who wishes to develop a technology, this course has a significant overarching outcome. As with so many areas of management, building and leading successful ventures is largely a learned skill – but one that can be greatly accelerated by studying robust methodologies and learning from past successes and failures. Researchers will leave the course far better prepared to start a new venture and with much better odds of success.
Executive Director, Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital
Associate Professor of Management Practice in Strategy and Entrepreneurship; Academic Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Though this course is a substantial commitment of time, it is an excellent example of getting out what you’re willing to put in.
We do not charge external researchers anything for participation in the course – it is entirely free. However, there are two quid pro quos:
We understand that this level of commitment is substantial. However, for motivated researchers, this time should represent opportunity rather than cost.
Since so much depends on full participation of external participants, each will be asked to sign a binding Memorandum of Commitment with the School and each other prior to final acceptance.
We anticipate that research applicants should:
We fully appreciate sensitivities over the ownership of the intellectual property belonging to the researchers and their institutions. There are, understandably, two main concerns:
The MBA students will act like any other external consultants to whom you might disclose IP and discuss your strategy. At the outset of the course, we will ask all MBA students to sign an agreement that preserves your rights. The agreement itself has been specifically commissioned from a leading UK-based IP law firm.
This agreement refers to any information given up to and including the final presentations in March 2022. At this point it is assumed that the team members will go their own ways. Should any teams stay wholly or partially intact then they will need to reach a new agreement between them, for which they should solicit their own legal advice.
This arrangement does not obviate the need by researchers to be sensitive to IP disclosure to those not in their team and to external parties (including the judges at the final presentations). You should always operate on a ‘need to know’ basis, ‘black-boxing’ the technology where you can.
You will hear back from us by 31 August 2021.
We are open to welcoming a few teams of two. Co-applicants should have worked together for a while and be intending to be co-founders of the eventual business. Both would be expected to participate fully in the course.
You apply and are selected as an individual and we do not liaise with your university at any point. You may wish to inform your supervisor or manager so that they are happy that you can devote the time needed – but that’s up to you.
No, not least because you may decide that licensing/collaboration is the best path for commercialization, in which case a company may not even be necessary.
No – patents may not even be the best form of protection. We will discuss this in the course.
Irrespective of whether you apply for this course you should be talking to your technology transfer office to get their advice on protection and commercialization. In addition, the chances are that they have some rights to the IP you’ll need in any company and it’s best to thrash out that position and the terms under which they’d license to your ‘spin-out’.
This would be very unfortunate. We are relying on external researchers to bring promising technologies and to work alongside LBS MBAs to develop a commercial plan – indeed, that’s the quid pro quo. You should only apply if you can stay the course.
The end point for the course is in the development of a commercial strategy for the proposed business – to the point where you’re ready to deploy resources for commercial development. Often these resources (including cash) will need to be sourced externally. If you have already raised external finance then you presumably have a commercial strategy so this course will be too ‘late’ for you – and be a distraction. Likewise, if you already have a team in place then the LBS students will add little value over and above. Conversely, if your technology is too early (e.g. not yet reduced to practice) then you’re probably too early to benefit from the course – your technology will be too nebulous and its capabilities too vague; your may have great ‘science’ but not yet a ‘technology’ to share.
No, although you need to be at London Business School for an 8am start on the Fridays that we are in class. Many of our own MBA students will travel in for these classes, often choosing to come in the evening before. This may change completely if we are forced to be either virtual or hybrid teaching.
LBS students will need to team up with a researcher to work on their technology (toward the final presentation in March). We anticipate teams will form in the period October to December. Those teams (of 3-5) form spontaneously. We anticipate that teams will form around all the technologies, but we cannot guarantee that this will be the case. If for any reason a team does not crystallise around a technology, then that technology does not go forward to the next (commercial strategy) part of the course. However, the researcher may go through as part of another team. This is the same ‘protocol’ as LBS adopts for all its courses.
LBS is adopting a ‘Classroom first’ approach to all its teaching from September. This means that preference is given to students who can attend in person and teaching optimised for those physically present. For an experiential course such as I2M this is even more important.