Bristol scoops £5m ideas deal

December 9, 2005

Academics stand to benefit from a £5 million deal signed by intellectual property firm IP2IPO and Bristol University to market research ideas.

The 25-year contract is the latest in a series of agreements between IP2IPO and major research universities.

Bristol is the sixth UK university to link up with the £237 million company since it floated on the Alternative Investment Market two years ago.

IP2IPO's other partners in the sector are King's College London, Oxford, Leeds, Bath and Southampton universities. At least two more institutions are expected to follow the trend over the next 18 months.

IP2IPO will invest in and support Bristol academics' spin-off companies in return for an equity stake of 13.3 per cent in the firms. However, academics' share of the profits from spin-offs will remain the same because it will be the university's tranche that is partly given to IP2IPO.

The firm will make an initial investment of £5 million to exploit Bristol academics' inventions and discoveries.

David Wynick, a professor of medicine at Bristol who has spun off a company called NeuroTargets, said he had originally had misgivings about a partnership with IP2IPO. He feared that the 25-year deal might put off other investors. But he told The Times Higher that he now believed the deal would help rather than hinder Bristol's academics.

He said: "As an academic, my concerns were that our intellectual property would be tied to IP2IPO and that that would put off others, such as institutional or private investors. In effect, IP2IPO would have cornered the Bristol market.

"But my concerns have been allayed because the deal has a number of get-out clauses."

A Bristol academic will be able to decline investment from IP2IPO and the university will be in charge of the intellectual property of its staff.

Neil Bradshaw, director of enterprise at Bristol, said IP2IPO would solve the biggest problem for university spin-offs: how to secure a large investment before an initial public offering. An IPO is the first time a company sells its stock to the public.

Dr Bradshaw said: "There is an acute shortage of cash. Venture capitalists are not investing in early stage spin-offs.

"With IP2IPO, we will be able to raise further funds. The company will bring knowledge, expertise and contacts from the business world. We have watched the universities that have worked with IP2IPO very closely; and, in drawing up the terms and conditions of the contract, we have been very sensitive to academics."

An IP2IPO employee will be employed full-time in the university's research and enterprise development office. No jobs will be lost as a result of the deal.

David Norwood, chief executive of IP2IPO, said: "We have identified a pipeline of promising opportunities and are confident the partnership will lead to the creation of an exciting portfolio of high-growth spin-off companies."

IP2IPO has floated five university spin-offs on AIM. These include King's College's Proximagen, which is worth at least £5 million and won the recent Times Higher Business Initiative of the Year Award. It has also floated Southampton's Synairgen, worth nearly £8 million, and Oxford's Vastox, worth £7 million.

jessica.shepherd@thes.co.uk

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