Jacobs Institute at Cornell Tech launches postdoc program

The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute at Cornell Tech has announced that six postdocs are joining the campus for the first Runway Program, a new model for technology entrepreneur education at the Ph.D. level designed to advance their research and launch new ventures using an innovative approach to intellectual property.

“The Runway Program takes its name from the fact that, unlike 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 the program’s director, Uzi de Haan, founder of the Technion’s Bronica Entrepreneurship Center in Israel.

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 advisers from outside the campus. If a postdoc has a project ready to be launched as a company, their Jacobs Institute-funded Runway Award can be used to develop the technology.

“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, 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.”

De Haan has expertise in emerging ventures, strategy and commercialization of intellectual property at universities. He was 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 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 startups.

The inaugural group of six postdocs was selected from applicants from around the world based on their academic and professional track records and their proposed enterprise. They will work on research and development projects in health care, e-commerce and urban planning, and they will have access to a support team to help advance their work, some of which may form the basis for startup companies.

The Jacobs Institute is piloting a new intellectual property (IP) model for the Runway Program, which positions it as an investor in companies that arise from the program. 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,” Huttenlocher said.

The Jacobs Institute is admitting students for its M.S. degree program in Connective Media, which will launch this fall. Students in this two-year program will receive degrees from the Technion and Cornell. Also in 2014, Cornell Tech will launch an MBA program in collaboration with Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

The Jacobs Institute was established in 2013 by a gift of $133 million from Irwin M. Jacobs ’54, founding chairman and CEO emeritus of Qualcomm, and his wife, Joan Klein Jacobs ’54.

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John Carberry