Call for business start-up support

June 23, 2000

Universities should give better support to the creation of start-up companies, a report from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals will recommend.

The process of setting up spin-off companies that exploit university research has become fairly well established, the study found. However, universities are less good at recognising the commercial potential of ideas coming from business schools, law, the arts and the social sciences.

Sir Douglas Hague of the University of Oxford, the report's author, said:

"On the whole, universities haven't paid much attention to start-ups. We are saying: 'Don't rush in but do look sympathetically at how you can help'."

According to Robin Jackson, a policy adviser at the CVCP, government policy has, to date, focused on spin-offs rather than start-ups. The government's 1998 white paper on competitiveness set a target of increasing the number of spin-off businesses from the public sector by 50 per cent each year by 2002. Dr Jackson stressed the importance of start-ups. "It's not just spin-offs - university contributions to innovation and competitiveness can come just as well from start-ups," he said.

Students and staff with commercial ideas need access to economic advice, which can come from within an institution.

Sir Douglas said: "Business school faculty are often able to help. What staff (with commercial ideas) want is to be able to talk to people in finance and marketing for advice and introductions to experts and potential clients."

The study, which looked at the work of some 20 universities from across the sector, will be discussed at a CVCP conference "Knowledge Means Business" next week. Speakers will include the science minister, Lord Sainsbury, and the head of the English funding council, Sir Brian Fender.

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