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Ph.D. Commercialization Fellows Program

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What is a Commercialization Fellowship?

Cornell Engineering is now offering Commercialization Fellowships—a unique opportunity for Ph.D. students to spend a fully-funded semester and summer in an intensive entrepreneurship program with a personal mentor to explore commercializing a product of the student’s choosing. From intellectual property management to supply chains, students will learn the tools, methods and skills for bringing a product or technology to market. The fellowship experience will enable deep experiential learning in the commercial side of innovation, and one-on-one mentoring assures a deep, personalized educational experience unmatched by traditional entrepreneurship programs. Applications for the 2017 Fellowship are closed. Applications for 2018 will open in December; please check back soon for updates.

Is This Program Right for Me?

The expectations of an engineer have grown considerably in recent years, especially in the areas of business and entrepreneurship. Even engineers who don’t plan on starting their own business can enhance their marketability by having business skills and an entrepreneurial mindset.

Commercialization Fellowships are for students who are immersed in a particular technology, but now want to see it through a business lens. Ph.D. students enrolled in any of Cornell Engineering’s departments can apply to be a fellow. Applicants must:

  • Have passed the A exam
  • Obtain permission and support from their advisor
  • Have a product or technology that has indications of commercial potential
  • Be willing to undertake deep commercial assessment process, including in-depth customer outreach and interviews

By enrolling in the program, Fellows work with a technology or product that is personally meaningful to them. And because researching and developing a business plan is embedded in the educational experience, students don’t have to spend their own time and money developing one.

 What Does the Curriculum Include?

While the fellowship is offered by Cornell Engineering, the curriculum is provided in conjunction with Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. Fellows will participate in regular workshops, and each fellow will receive one-on-one mentoring from Cornell faculty with entrepreneurial experience. During the course of the semester, students will work with their mentors to identify potential market opportunities for their technology and to develop a strategic business plan for scaling up and going to market. They will be required to regularly report on progress, and must present their final business plan as they would a thesis. Students will learn business strategies and best practices for:

  • Marketing
  •  Fundraising
  • Hiring
  •  Customer Development
  • Going to Market
  • Supply Chains
  • Intellectual Property Management and much more.

Students will also have access to alumni, entrepreneurs and business experts in fields related to their product. Access will come in the form of lectures, small Q&A sessions, site visits and private meetings. The fellowship also offers opportunities to participate in Cornell’s Technology Entrepreneurship Club, eHub, leadership training and other existing programs at the University.

In the second half of the program, fellows will be matched with teams of M.B.A. students who will assist in finalizing business and go-to-market plans and in developing potential investor pitch materials.

Building From a Strong Foundation

While there are a multitude of opportunities for entrepreneurial education at Cornell, not all of them are available to engineering Ph.D. students. The Commercialization Fellowship provides access to these programs through one, comprehensive program that is modeled after the success experienced by former Ph.D. students with entrepreneurial ambitions, but eliminates many of the barriers they faced.

In 2007, then biomedical engineering student Diego Rey and microbiology student Leonardo Teixeira took the course Entrepreneurship for Scientists and Engineers and began developing a fast, low-cost method to diagnose diseases. Lacking the proper business vision for the company, they invited MBA student Jason Springs to the project. After changing their business model and using the Center for Technology Licensing at Cornell, the three students patented the technology under their startup, GeneWEAVE BioScience. They continued developing the business after graduating and in 2015, sold the company for $425 million.

Another lab-to-market success story includes that of Rachel Dorin, who earned her Ph.D. in 2013 after working in the materials science lab of engineering Professor Uli Wiesner. Dorin’s research focused on the application of self-assembling materials to separations applications, and after receiving a business minor, Dorin founded TeraPore Technologies, which now manufactures proprietary separation membranes for pharmaceutical purifications.

The program is supported in part by Cornell Engineering alumnus Eric A. Young ’78, co-founder of Canaan Partners, a venture capital investment firm serving emerging growth technology companies.

How to Apply

Applications for the 2017 Fellowship are closed. Applications for 2018 will open in December; please check back soon for updates. For more information contact Emmanuel Giannelis at or Tom Schryver at