Turning Lab Discoveries into Startups: A Step-by-Step Guide

Jeya Chelliah B.Vsc Ph.D.

Turning a lab discovery into a successful startup is an exciting journey filled with potential. For scientists and researchers, the prospect of seeing a concept developed in a research environment evolve into a real-world application can be immensely rewarding. This process, however, involves several critical steps—from navigating patent requirements to securing funding and establishing a company structure. Here’s a guide on how to transform your scientific discovery into a thriving startup.

Step 1: Evaluate the Commercial Viability

The first step in this journey is to assess the commercial potential of your lab discovery. This involves understanding the market demand, potential competitors, and overall industry trends. Conducting a thorough market analysis will help determine if your discovery solves a significant problem or improves upon existing solutions significantly enough to warrant a business endeavor.

Step 2: Secure Intellectual Property Rights

Before moving forward, it’s crucial to protect your invention. This is typically done through patents, which safeguard your ideas by preventing others from making, using, or selling your invention without permission.

Navigating Patent Requirements

  • Conduct a Patent Search: Ensure your invention is novel by conducting a comprehensive search to see if similar patents already exist.
  • Draft a Patent Application: This should be done with the assistance of a patent attorney who specializes in your field of technology to ensure that all technical nuances are properly covered.
  • File the Application: Depending on your location and where you plan to do business, you may need to file with national or international patent offices.

Step 3: Develop a Business Plan

A solid business plan outlines your business idea, expected financials, market analysis, business model, and long-term objectives. This plan is crucial not only for strategic planning but also for communicating your vision to potential investors or partners.

Step 4: Find Funding

Securing funding is often one of the biggest hurdles in turning a lab discovery into a startup. Here are some funding sources to consider:

Grants and Scholarships

These are often non-dilutive funding sources available through government bodies, educational institutions, and private foundations.

Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists

These individuals or entities provide capital for startups showing high growth potential in exchange for equity. Pitching to investors requires a clear value proposition and a strong business plan.


Platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo can help raise funds while validating your market at the same time.

Strategic Partnerships

Collaborating with established companies can provide necessary resources and market access.

Step 5: Establish the Company

Once funding is secured, the next step is to officially establish your startup. This includes:

  • Choosing a Business Structure: Decide whether an LLC, corporation, or partnership best suits your needs based on liability, taxation, and operational flexibility.
  • Registering the Business: Register your company with the relevant authorities to obtain necessary licenses and permits.
  • Building a Team: Hire key personnel who bring in diverse skills crucial for your startup’s growth.

Step 6: Develop and Refine Your Product

With the foundations of your company set, focus on product development. This phase involves prototyping, beta testing, and continual iterations based on user feedback. Ensuring the product meets market needs while adhering to regulatory standards is key.

Step 7: Go to Market

Marketing your product effectively is crucial for a successful launch. Develop a marketing strategy that includes online and offline elements such as digital marketing, conferences, and industry events.

Step 8: Scale Your Business

As your startup grows, scaling your operations will become necessary. This might involve expanding your team, entering new markets, or scaling up production. Constant analysis and adaptation of your business strategy will be essential to handle this growth effectively.

Transforming a lab discovery into a startup is a challenging but potentially rewarding process. It requires a clear understanding of the legal, financial, and practical aspects of business operations. By methodically addressing each step from patenting to finding funding, and from establishing your business to scaling it, you can increase the chances of your startup’s success in the competitive business landscape. Whether your lab discovery is a groundbreaking medical device, a new pharmaceutical agent, or an innovative technology, the path from the lab bench to the boardroom is paved with dedication, strategic planning, and a deep understanding of the market needs.

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