Deciding whether to spin out

Setting up a Spin-out can be exciting, interesting and stimulating.

It is also time-consuming, can be a stressful activity, and may distract you from your research. You will need to work with business managers and investors whose objectives may be different from your own.

Not all research is suited to becoming the platform for a new business. Oxford University Innovation staff will help evaluate the business opportunities arising from your research. Business and management skills will be needed for the spinning out, as well as running the subsequent business. Therefore it is important to identify a source of these early on.

If you intend to remain an employee of the University, you will need various consents from the University to participate in a spinout.  You are required by the University’s Regulations to seek permission for any outside appointments, for instance providing consultancy services to the spinout or holding a directorship (whether non-executive or executive) in the spinout. Also, some funding agencies do not allow researchers to be directors. You will need to manage the conflicts of interest in line with the University’s policies.

There are potentially onerous legal responsibilities attached to being a director of a limited company. Before deciding to spin out you must understand these, and decide whether the benefit is worth the potential risk.

What the spin-out team needs to do

The team will need to decide:

  • what the company is to do, what it is going to sell, where it is going to get it, who it is going to sell to and how

  • what funding and other resources will be needed and where it will come from

  • who will likely be involved with or employed by the company

A successful spin-out requires:

  • time – spin-outs require a significant investment of time from all parties

  • skills and resources – many of these are not generally available in universities

  • mundane work – which you may prefer not to do (printing, stationary, premises, insurance, many meetings, etc.)

  • a measure of luck

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