Total UK university revenue from intellectual property (IP) rose last year to a new high, almost double the value generated five years ago, the latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) shows.
The release yesterday (10 June) from the statistical body – the annual Higher Education Business and Community Interaction data – shows that IP generated a total of £294.6 million for universities and research institutes in 2019-20, up from £275.2m the year before. The comparative figure in 2014/15 was £155.7m, nearly half the figure last year. The University of Oxford, University College London and The Institute of Cancer Research topped the list of institutions generating the most from their IP portfolio.
Fourteen of the top 20 institutions for IP revenue in 2019-20 were Russell Group members; Oxford Brookes, East Anglia, Portsmouth, Surrey and the Open University complete the list of best performers. The south of England is home to 11 of the 20, alongside one university each from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – Glasgow, Cardiff and Queen’s, respectively.
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Universities’ overall income from external partners grew by more than £100m to around £5.2 billion, up from £5.06bn the year preceding, despite the significant challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mirroring the increase in IP revenue, investment in university spinouts grew by 35% last year, reaching £2.3bn. The number of spinout companies reached 174, up 4% on 2018-19, while universities were granted over 2,020 new patents. Cambridge and Oxford universities filed 267 and 192 new patent applications apiece.
A sign the pandemic was not all smooth sailing, income from other sources declined, however. Knowledge exchange with businesses, such as research, consultancy and facilities leases —dropped from £955m to £909m.
Universities are setting ambitious new targets for business spinouts and IP commercialisation. A new university investment company established by Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds aims to become a northern powerhouse for academic spinouts.