Am I eligible?
To find out if your project is eligible for consideration, contact Your institution’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) or The UT System OTC.
Is this a grant?
No — the Horizon Fund is the strategic venture fund of the UT System and only invests in equity startups.
How do you apply to the Horizon Fund — Existing Venture Development?
We recommend faculty first speak with your OTC officer to see if your application is eligible. If so, we encourage you then fill out an application. If not, your application is likely better suited for alternative areas such as continued research or licensing to industry.
Why do I need intellectual property? What is Technology Commercialization?
  • Basic research advances fundamental knowledge about the human world. It is the source of most new scientific ideas and ways of thinking which may not be immediately utilized. Modern computers could not exist without the basic research in mathematics (data processing), deposition chemistry (microchips) and light emission (graphic display). Basic research would have little to no value to broader society without societal and commercial-driven applied research and delivery of technology to the marketplace through commercialization.
  • Applied research advances the human condition through development of societal improvements and commercialization objectives. Accesses basic research for a product, service, societal improvement or commercial purpose. Modern computers could not existing without applied research in transistors and microchips (data processing), silicon wafer production (microchips) and light emitting diodes (graphic display). Applied research would have no starting point without fundamentally-driven basic research.
  • Technology commercialization advances the human condition through delivery of societal improvements and commercialization objectives to the marketplace. Commercialization provides a vehicle for inventors to innovate through limited protection attractive to investors. This innovation occurs through exclusive rights for a limited period of time in the form of intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc.), without which there would be little to no incentive to innovate. Commercializes output from Applied Research including skills, knowledge, technologies, data and patentable inventions. Modern computers could not exist without the commercially driven academic and industry relationships which resulted in transfer of technology in transistors and microchips, silicon wafer production and light emitting diodes. Commercialization would have no starting point without applied research. Prior actual improvements to society include Lipitor (Northwestern University), Remicade (New York University), LCD television (Kent State University) and many others. More information on how universities are improving society through commercialization can be found at
    www.b-d30.org and www.betterworldproject.net.
I think I may have a viable technology. Should I contact my institution’s OTC to consider
intellectual property protection or just publish it?
Yes! If you think you have an invention, contact your OTC. Your institution’s OTC officer can judge the market-ability and patent-ability of your invention. Some inventions can be readily licensed to industry and in fact this is the preferred path for these inventions. Other inventions are more suitable as startups, and the Horizon Fund supports these inventions.
I have an industry partner that may be interested in licensing technology. What should faculty do?
  • When an industry partner having the resources is willing and able to license the technology at market rates, it is best to seriously consider licensing the technology to the industry partner, especially if they have funded the research and familiar with its market potential. Not all technologies are suitable for startup.
  • If you feel you have IP suitable industry to license to an industry partner, then contact the OTC officer at your institution.
Why start a company? What should faculty do?
  • Starting a new company is advisable for technologies that are not readily licensable to an industry partner and where significant a market potential exists.
  • If you feel you have IP suitable industry to start a company, then contact the OTC officer at your institution.
Is there really a benefit to disclosing an invention? Why not just put out for anyone to have?
  • By contacting the OTC prior to publication to consider protecting your invention, you can make your invention more attractive to downstream partners. In most cases, publishing with the potential for a patent for intellectual property will have an increased chance of improving society by utilizing research findings. You are encouraging a capable partner to bring a product or service to market.
  • The Horizon Fund Enterprise Startup program is a special mechanism of technology commercialization, focusing on high-impact disruptive technologies with strong commercial potential where a startup commercialization model is the best path to market.
  • Publishing without consideration of invention carries certain misconceptions by some in academia as being “impure” or “commercial”. A common misconception is that “simply publishing” will result in an improvement to society. However:
    • Scientific literature reports original empirical and theoretical work. Academic publishing is the process of placing the results of one’s research into the literature. Patents and technical reports (including computer software) can also be considered primary literature, contributing to knowledge base.
    • Peer review and the learned journal format is a means of advancing quality of science and learned knowledge dissemination. Patents and other intellectual property provide a form of peer review through patent examination process to provide transparency.
    • Patents provide incentives for economically efficient research and development (R&D). A study conducted annually by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) compared R&D departments for the 2,000 largest global companies. The study found that without intellectual property protection, R&D spending may likely be significantly less or eliminated altogether, focusing instead on steady-state books of business and limiting the possibility of technological advances or breakthroughs. The disruption provided by a new invention and the patent asset behind that disruption protects investors from the risks association with such disruptive new approaches.
    • Patents and other intellectual property also facilitate and encourage disclosure of innovations into the public domain for the common good. Awarding patents generally makes the details of new technology publicly available, for exploitation by anyone after the patent expires, or for further improvement by other inventors. When a patent’s term has expired, the public record ensures that the patentee’s idea is not lost to humanity.
    • For industries, especially those with high fixed costs and either low marginal costs or low reverse engineering costs (computer processors, and pharmaceuticals for example), once an invention exists, the cost of commercialization (testing, tooling up a factory, developing a market, etc.) is far more than the initial conception cost. Unless there is some way to prevent copies from competing at the marginal cost of production, during the early years, companies will not make that investment.
    • Overall a patent, and commercialization of that patent, is a means to incentivize innovation and cover the cost of commercialization evident in the early years for the actual benefit of society.