I met Tom a year and a half ago, when he applied to an entrepreneurial research program I run called Cyclotron Road. Each year, we receive over 100 applications from the U.S. and beyond for our program, which supports scientists as they work to develop a product based on research in fields like materials science, chemistry, and physics-what we call “Hard technology.”

Today’s research ecosystem isn’t built to support innovators like Tom.

Private industry can’t justify investment in expensive research that doesn’t yet have clear commercial potential.

So how do we keep the Toms of this world in the game? For starters, we need to do a better job catalyzing the creation of science-based startups and supporting cutting-edge research within them.

Such firms often spend years performing research to develop a first product.

Despite driving some of the biggest technology disruptions in recent history, small businesses receive only a small percentage of all government research funding.

We need to find a better way to support our best scientists and engineers in their research to turn new discoveries into commercially viable products.