Midlands Innovation Commercialisation of Research Accelerator (MICRA) universities were well represented at a roundtable on university spin-out companies organised by legal firm Browne Jacobson.
This prestigious event brought together a wide array of sector leading practitioners with diverse backgrounds and experience in the technology transfer and university spin-out sphere. With participants in the roundtable sharing their thoughts on a wide range of hot topics pertinent to the sphere of higher education innovation translation and commercialisation.
Dr. George Rice, Head of Commercialisation at the University of Nottingham, reflected on how funded initiatives such as the Innovation to the Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) scheme, are helping to overcome long running and deep seated challenges faced by higher education technology transfer professionals. He said that “the time between registering some IP and creating a spin-out company is getting shorter”.
A process of acceleration which he argues had been assisted by programmes like ICURe that seek to solve one of the big issues, which is “… tensions between academics and universities [during] the efforts needed to grow a spin-out company, because it… takes up a lot of the time of… academics leading them.” In Rice’s experience “ICURe tries to solve that problem by [enabling] universities to appoint someone to take on the ‘grunt work’ and use the more senior academic as the driver”.
Similar strategic insights drawn from experience were expressed by University of Birmingham Head of Enterprise Acceleration, David Coleman. He shared the view that the broad role of universities with regards to spin-outs is “…to bring in the right kind of management, business plan and investment to grow this business. Our university has decided that when there’s a sensible opportunity to exit a business we should take it.“
It was not just technical and commercial aspects of creating and managing university spin-out companies that were examined. The discussion also encompassed the value that spin-outs and the technology transfer and commercialisation process can bring to universities, beyond purely commercial outcomes.
Nigel Davies, Chief Business Officer of University of Warwick spin-out Medherent, explained that the kind of pharmaceutical product development his firm does “…can take a long time… It may be ten years before [we] get a return. But that despite this there are other benefits which we’ll bring to the university… These include the publicity and focus on the university that our presence gives, which helps attract more commercial and academic interest”.