Cardiff aims to add to tally of 15 spin-off successes

October 27, 2000

Stimulating technology transfer is a priority in Cardiff. The city's university and its sister institution, the University of Wales College of Medicine, have between them created 15 high-technology companies, employing 390 people and with a combined annual turnover of more than £24 million.

Cardiff Research Consortium, focuses on diabetes research. It was assisted by the Welsh Development Agency's Spin-Out Programme, which provides loans to cover the costs of converting higher education research into new businesses. It also received resources for equipment from the funding council.

The company has been in business for six months and is working with major pharmaceuticals companies. Its most significant project is preparing a computer-based predictive model of Type-2 diabetes. This model, which will become available on the internet, is attracting international interest.

The model was demonstrated at the Jerusalem Conference of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, using a portable computer paid for with funding council cash. It is due to be shown at the International Diabetes Federation Conference in Mexico.

Company director Craig Currie, of the College of Medicine, said: "We were fortunate that we were aware of the Spin-Out Programme just as we were thinking about developing our business plans. Almost everyone said starting a business was difficult and demanding. But help from the programme has made it much easier. The advice and support we received has been invaluable."

David Thewlis, Spin-Out's manager, helped to steer the academics through the early business-planning stage. "The company has already achieved success and is anxious to maintain momentum," he said. "The directors are steering a careful course between marketing their business to achieve new contracts and delivering existing work to a timely but high academic standard."

Cardiff's is the sort of approach welcomed by the government white paper on technology transfer Excellence and Opportunity.

"It is a tremendous boost for universities that the government recognises its essential role in funding basic research to facilitate innovation," said Cardiff University's vice-chancellor, Sir Brian Smith. "I am delighted Cardiff is held up as a role model for technology and knowledge transfer."

A Pounds 4 million Cardiff fellowship scheme attracted applicants from North America, Australia, the UK and the rest of Europe. It resulted in 43 new appointments in 17 departments, ranging from professional to postdoctoral level.

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