Isis Enterprise Oxford – Alicia Martinez

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1st February 2007

In September 2006 I arrived from Valencia. I came to Oxford to work at Oxford University Innovation Ltd as a ‘secondee’ for six months.

With an academic background in Naval Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and an MBA from IESE, University of Navarra (Spain) and after working for the past four years at the Polytechnic City of Innovation, the Science Park of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, I was selected to join the NOEMI programme run by the Valencian government – Generalitat Valenciana -, a region on the Mediterranean Coast of Spain.

The NOEMI programme supports one of the key policies of the Regional Ministry of Enterprise, University and Science and promotes the creation of a network of science parks to foster and incubate new business opportunities based on research.

At Oxford University Innovation Ltd, my objective was to begin to recognise the functions of a technology transfer office and understand the keys to making it successful.

Four months working in Isis has allowed me to discover three keys, which I believe, are fundamental to understand the continuing success of Isis.

The first is the fact that the Isis model relies on researchers obtaining commercialisable results from their on-going research and a specialist technology transfer team, the Oxford University Innovation team, is in charge of investigating patentability and helping the decision on licensing the technology or creating a spin-out. There is no pretence to convert brilliant academics into entrepreneurs. Simply, for those who volunteer to commercialise the results of their research Oxford University Innovation will assist throughout the technology transfer process while leaving researchers to do what they know best: research.

This is different from the concepts developing in Valencia where the current thought is to change the system of academic measurement in favour of developing entreprenuerialism in the University.

The second is the value placed in Isis on human resource. Isis is very hospitable to guests but, more important, I want to highlight the emphasis that is placed on the team, the selection assessment, and the need for PhDs with long experience in industry. With these individuals one can maintain credibility between academics and the commercial world in order to create a ‘bridge’, which is technology transfer from the university to commerce.

The third point is the culture change that Isis has obtained in working with the University of Oxford. The consequence of ten years of work is that there is a culture where researchers bring their ideas to Oxford University Innovation. It is the responsibility of the University to transparently support that process, and a local network of professionals are important in ensuring technology transfer: legal advisers, accountants, banks, investors etc…  All this has been developed in Oxford and the University where the ideas reside leads the process.

In Isis Enterprise, the new division of Oxford University Innovation created to work on projects outside of the University of Oxford, I have been able to compare the emphasis on tech transfer that exists, in recent times, across much of the world. Isis Enterprise has projects in locations from New Zealand through Scandinavia to the new states of the EU and Japan. All these projects have issues in common and all search for a model of technology transfer which can be implemented or which improves the existing system.

My objective, on my return to Valencia, is to implement the ideas I saw in Oxford. In order to do this, we must show a basic understanding of the many differences between the University of Oxford and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, and to get to know what is possible. But we must also show that the cultural change is possible in an innovative University. The Valencian region, through the NOEMI programme, is working for that and is reinforcing one of the major sources of bringing together companies, organisations and governments today: networking.Contact Alicia Martinez on for further information.

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