Elite researchers at Chicago-based and Boston-based universities, despite producing similar quality research at each career-stage, are embedded in highly disparate commercial networks. (Source: Pitchbook; Crunchbase; Research Bridge Partners model and analysis.)

America’s research universities have an unequaled track record of innovation. They have produced breakthroughs ranging from antibiotics and the Polio vaccine to cures for childhood leukemia and some of today’s most effective cancer therapies, while representing roughly 75 percent of the top 50 academic institutions globally.

Although research in biomedicine, quantum science and other critical fields is broadly dispersed, the Bay Area and Boston are largely responsible for commercializing the resultant innovations. And they do it uniquely well. As with Wall Street and Hollywood, talented businesspeople and smart money congregate in dense, specialized markets.

Stanford, Cal-Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, and other coastal universities benefit from proximity to those markets. Unfortunately, great research institutions like Purdue and the University of Michigan don’t have the same geographic advantage. As evidenced by the fact that two-thirds of the academic startups occur in California, Massachusetts and New York – three states that perform only about one-third of the federally funded research nationwide – much of the nation’s best academic research is landlocked.

Research Bridge Partners has developed a novel means of bridging two of its most productive resources – our research universities and the commercialization centers in the Bay Area and Boston. Until recently, such a model would have made sense only on paper. However, recent clarifications to the tax code, and the use of proprietary data analytics, mean that we can provide outstanding researchers at mid-continent labs with access to the venture capital and venture talent markets on the coasts by means of new investment resource—translational philanthropy.

Philanthropy has long been a key driver of innovation. America’s research universities are the envy of the world due, in part, to the foresight and generosity of generations of philanthropists. Much of that investment went to fund basic research and build the infrastructure that supports it. Now, a different type of philanthropy is needed to commercialize these breakthroughs. Translational philanthropy – which takes its name from translational research, the term widely used to describe the process of transforming raw innovation into an investible potential product –enables game changing innovations to access the venture capital cycle, where they have a chance to benefit people everywhere.

Translational philanthropy acts as not-for-profit venture capital, creating social and economic incentives that align with those of downstream investors and business talent. These incentives can create tremendous leverage for upstream philanthropic investment. This leverage comes in the form of the profit-maximizing capital and, most importantly, best-in-the-world business talent, that flows to high value opportunities.

The institutions that sponsor and host most basic research – government agencies and universities – are not well configured to apply market incentives. This is in no way a criticism: the systems that best create new knowledge are different than the systems that best apply that knowledge to human problems. Some of the most visionary philanthropists are already moving in this direction, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Research Bridge Partners uses proprietary data analytics to the identify the top innovators with the highest commercial potential. We gauge their mindset to become successful scientific co-founder, not just their scientific acumen, both of which are critical to the successful commercialization of academic research.

Research Bridge Partners’ operating model is informed by the experiences of our co-founders, Isaac Barchas, who has deep roots in mid-continent university commercialization, and Reid Hoffman, who has successfully scaled Silicon Valley startups for decades.