Cash advance: Imperial to back others' spin-offs

December 16, 2010

The commercialisation arm of Imperial College London is to provide financial backing to entrepreneurial academics from other leading institutions.

Imperial Innovations, which is a publicly listed company, has raised financial backing worth £140 million in an attempt to grow its business and expand its reach.

Despite the difficult economic climate, Sir Keith O'Nions, rector of Imperial, said the college had identified "a golden opportunity to invest in university spin-outs and intellectual property" and recognised that "in order to move ahead we needed more cash".

The money primarily will be used to commercialise inventions and ideas inspired by research at Imperial. However, for the first time Imperial Innovations will also provide commercial support and investment for companies established on the back of work carried out at other leading research institutions, including the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and University College London.

Sir Keith said the work could lead to "interesting joint ventures" with other universities.

Shareholders have contributed to the innovation arm in return for a stake in the profits made by spin-off companies and other enterprises it supports.

For its part, Imperial, a major shareholder in the company, will use the growing profits from university spin-offs and intellectual property deals brokered by the commercialisation arm to boost its endowment.

The rector said that investment in research and innovation was a "virtuous circle" for Imperial, the company and its sponsors.

"Imperial Innovations' activities return funds to the college, which helps us to become increasingly self-sufficient as a university," Sir Keith said.

He described the expansion of Imperial Innovations as "a key plank" of the institution's future financial stability.

"This helps grow our investment fund, and...that is going to be the key to our future," he said.

hannah.fearn@tsleducation.com.

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