UK Technology Transfer Thriving

Image from UK Technology Transfer Thriving News Article

1st November 2003

The second Annual Survey on University Technology Transfer Activities, published in November 2003, concluded that UK universities are improving their ability to commercialise their intellectual property.

The Annual Survey, the UK’s most authoritative survey of the UK technology transfer, university sector, was conducted jointly by Nottingham University Business School (NUBS), UNICO and AURIL, and covers the university financial year 2002. The data collected from 125 institutions includes 96 out of the top 100 universities – accounting for 98 per cent of total UK research expenditure.

Overall, the survey reveals there has been a significant growth in staffing levels; the number of spinouts financed through University Challenge Funds has risen; invention disclosures, patents issued and licences executed have increased substantially; and licensing income stands at some £22.4 million. However, fewer new spin-out companies were created this year.

Despite the successful implementation of the University Challenge Funds for early stage investment, the survey reports that, across the whole sample, access to venture capital continues to be a major impediment to the creation of spin-out companies as does staffing levels to manage intellectual property. In addition, proof of concept funding for IPR due diligence, market research and prototype development remain restrictive factors in commercialisation activity.

“The survey suggests that universities are learning what works and what does not work,” said Professor Mike Wright of the NUBS survey team. “These developments reflect the growing recognition of wealth creation from technology transfer, rather than the creation of spinouts and licenses per se. It’s apparent that the sector is still evolving, and universities have yet to develop a significant income stream from their activities; however, there are many encouraging indicators for the future generation of revenue streams from technology transfer activities.”

Key Findings
NB: Figures quoted are those reported across the whole sample of 125 universities. However, percentage increases are based on those universities reporting data in both 2000/1 and 2001/2 surveys.

Commercial office activities
A 24 per cent increase in full-time employees engaged in technology transfer related activities: an average of 6 per university

Invention disclosures and patents
• 2,238 inventions were disclosed – an increase of 19 per cent
• 347 new patents were issued – an increase of 59 per cent
• Intellectual property protection expenditure
• A total of £11.5 million was spent protecting intellectual property – an increase of 18 per cent

Licensing activity
• 1616 active licenses were reported
• 648 licenses were executed in 2002, 111 of these with equity
• 635 licenses yielded income generating some £22.4 million income – an increase of 21 per cent

Spin-out company activity
• 158 new spin-out companies were created
• 21 spin-outs were created with venture capital investment, 17 with business angel investment, 14 with industrial partner investment and 50 with university Challenge Fund investment
• 20 full exits were reported, including 1 IPO, 5? trade sales and 14 liquidations/failures

International comparisons: UK, US and Canada
For every $100 billion in GDP, the US allocates over 30 per cent more than the UK on research expenditure, and Canada nearly 22 per cent more. Comparison of experience in the UK, US and Canada shows that after adjusting for differences in GDP and research expenditure between the three countries:

• UK universities create more spin-out companies compared to US and Canadian institutions
• UK universities executed more licences compared with US and Canadian institutions but had far fewer licences yielding income, and earned less gross licence income than either country
• The UK performs less well than US in terms of number of patents issued, but better than Canada
• Commenting on the results of the survey, Philip Graham, Executive Director of AURIL said: “Government support has attracted the attention of university administrators who now have knowledge and technology transfer higher up on their agendas, as shown by the influx of new talent in the sector. This has created substantial new demand for training, and the recent announcement by the Office of Science & Technology to invest £1m in the provision of training for knowledge transfer practitioners is extremely encouraging as it addresses the Government’s objective of stimulating systematic and sustainable change within institutions and how they relate to business, while adding to the economic development of the UK.”

Tom Hockaday, Chair of UNICO and Executive Director of Oxford University’s technology transfer company, Oxford University Innovation, said: “It is very encouraging to see technology transfer is thriving in the UK. Commercialising intellectual property through patenting, licensing, and spinning-out are key elements of universities’ third stream activities. UK universities are developing strong expertise, which over the long term will strengthen universities, the economy and society. The key to stimulating positive interactions between universities and business is to invest resources at the interface.”

The Annual Survey on University UK Technology Transfer Activities is the first survey of its kind to provide benchmarks for commercialisation activities in the UK. It is funded by UNIEI (University of Nottingham Institute for Enterprise and Innovation).

Press release sign up
Sparks Background Image

Ready to get in touch?

Contact Us
Sparks Background Image
© Oxford University Innovation