Q&A with Innovation Manager Judy Bridges
If you’re an early-career researcher or just starting your innovation journey at the University of Washington, you might have questions about when and how to start working with CoMotion. We sat down with Judy Bridges, CoMotion’s innovation manager for physical sciences and a three-decade veteran at the intersection of business and science, to talk through these questions.
How do I know if CoMotion is right for me and my work?
If you are a UW researcher or faculty or staff member, CoMotion is your commercialization vehicle, in part because of your affiliation with the University but also because we provide a one-of-a-kind service. There’s not another group on campus where you’re going to find people so tightly focused on innovation training, mentorship, intellectual property management, and nondilutive funding.
If you’re unsure about your innovation path, request a consultation with us. You’ll talk with an innovation manager (IM) who is knowledgeable about your area of research. They will ask what you’re thinking about and will offer advice. If the timing is right, we might recommend you disclose your innovation to us in writing to get you into the system. And it’s never too early to start working with us; an early heads-up can help us start to build a plan.
Once I reach out to CoMotion, what happens next?
If you request a consultation, it’s just a conversation. That’s all, no obligation. Once you file a written disclosure where you list your contributors, you’ll start getting some feedback. Typically, an IM will reach out within a day or two to get more information. You tell us your story, your idea, and we’ll start to identify who legally counts as an author or inventor. During that conversation, we’ll also ask ‘What do you hope to get out of this process?’ That helps us determine urgency and strategy.
What can my IM do for me?
Once you’re paired with an IM, they become the point person you can talk to about the documentation you’ve submitted, you’ll develop a relationship, and you’ll always know who to contact. For me, sometimes as an IM I’m a project manager, sometimes a mentor, other times a part of the team or a sounding board for what’s working. We’ll help you understand the resources and training available to you. We’ll also help you understand the legal considerations and develop an intellectual property strategy.
I’m thinking about filing a written disclosure of my innovation. What information do I need before I get started?
It helps me, at that point, if you have a working title, a description of the project, and a sense of where the novelty is. Is it that no one’s thought of this idea before? Or is it just that no one’s bothered to develop it? If you have a draft manuscript or other relevant data, those are important things to have, as well as knowing if the innovation involves sponsored research through an agency like NIH or NSF. Where is the money coming from? And who are you working with? We’ll need a fairly comprehensive list of contributors and their affiliation.
The more detailed information we have early on, the better the outcomes and constructive conversations. But that doesn’t mean you’re committed to them; the documentation is a starting point.
What happens as my work develops? Will CoMotion continue to support me?
Absolutely, all the way through, wherever the work may lead. Sometimes complex patents take multiple years to get done. Even when you’ve gotten to the point of a spinoff, we can do a lot to help you. And we have a huge cohort of amazing mentors to support you in your journey.
What other questions do you encounter most frequently in these early stages?
The number-one question is: ‘Do I even have something patentable?’ And my answer to that typically is, ‘Don’t worry about it, write down what you know, give me as much detail as you can. Maybe you don’t, maybe you do, or maybe it’s one where you’re close but it needs work.’ We can start that conversation.
The other question I get is, ‘What if I’m not interested in starting a company?’ That’s okay. We can take a look and explore other options, like licensing your technology to an existing company. It’s about giving options. Our goal here is to take ideas coming out of the university system and get them out into the community for people to benefit from in a tangible way.