£14m fillip to help broker spin-off licensing deals

May 20, 2005

University researchers with ideas they could sell to industry received a boost this week when a major investor in spin-off companies announced that it had raised £14 million to develop research for licensing deals.

David Norwood, chief executive of IP2IPO, said the money would be used to invest in new ideas to advance them to a stage where they would be of interest to industry.

IP2IPO would then help broker a licensing deal between the university and the company, providing an income stream to the inventor and the university.

Although IP2IPO has exclusive deals with five UK universities, the licensing fund, called LifeUK, will be available to all institutions.

"Trying to license raw intellectual property is difficult," Mr Norwood said.

"LifeUK was created from market demand. World centres of research in the UK were saying they needed partnership investment and management."

LifeUK is believed to be the first private proof-of-concept fund for universities. Although some institutions successfully bid to use government grants from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (II) for this purpose, most people agree that there is a shortage of funds to develop technology to make it commercially viable.

Brian Graves, head of physical sciences and engineering technology at Imperial Innovations, said universities had often been forced to create spin-off companies to get investment, even when it was not the best route for that technology.

"The more universities can do that development, the more valuable the technology becomes and the easier it is to promote," he explained.

IP2IPO has been involved in four of the nine university spin-off companies that have floated on the Alternative Investment Market over the past 12 months.

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