Research England has awarded grants totalling £1.5m to two schemes designed to increase research commercialisation.
The two programmes – TenU and a new Policy Evidence Unit for University Commercialisation and Innovation (UCI) – both aim to improve the economic value of university intellectual property (IP). The funds will be handled by the University of Cambridge, which is a founding member of both programmes.
TenU is a practitioner group that brings together the heads of the technology transfer offices (TTOs) at ten internationally-recognised, research-intensive universities.
The universities of Cambridge, Columbia (USA), Edinburgh (UK), Imperial College London (UK), Leuven (Belgium), Manchester (UK), MIT (USA), Stanford (USA), Oxford (UK), and UCL (UK) will work together through TenU to improve commercialisation pathways for new innovations.
UCI was developed by Cambridge in partnership with the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (CSTI) and the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB). Its goal is to develop better data, evidence and expert insights regarding UK research commercialisation, to support the strategies of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), universities and funding agencies.
The newly-founded UCI will begin by researching how the Covid-19-induced economic crisis is affecting universities’ abilities to contribute to innovation. It will also investigate research commercialisation at UK universities and develop better data and metrics to measure performance. The centre is to be hosted by the CSTI in the university’s department of engineering.
In its January 2020 report on the first iteration of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), Research England designated ‘research commercialisation and IP’ as one of seven areas that constitute knowledge exchange – the process whereby universities share their expertise with those beyond its campus, such as businesses, charities, communities and policymakers.
The indicators chosen by Research England to measure research commercialisation at universities include the estimated turnover of spin-out firms, the external investment in spin-out firms and the amount generated from licensing IP. A spin-out firm is a company launched by a university’s commercial team that uses academic expertise or innovations drawn from its research.
David Sweeney, executive chair, Research England, said: “In line with the UK Government’s R&D Roadmap, Research England as part of UK Research and Innovation needs to demonstrate we are world-class at securing economic and social benefits from research. University technology transfer is at the heart of that. Research England funding for TenU will help showcase best practice at the global cutting edge, with the new UCI policy unit providing critical evidence and metrics. We look forward to deepening these international links”.
Tomas Ulrichsen, director of the UCI, said: “The grant from the Research England Development Fund will enable us to support policymakers, funders, and universities with better and more targeted evidence and expert insight, to consider how to build on and adapt their approaches to university-driven commercialisation and innovation. This will help economies across the UK recover, reconfigure, and thrive through the economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic”.