Heriott-Watt pact boosts spin-offs

June 15, 2001

Heriot-Watt University and a leading venture management group have forged a £12 million partnership to encourage academic spin-off companies.

The five-year agreement is between Heriot-Watt and Forward Group, which recently signed a partnership with Leeds University and plans to develop links with other institutions.

It will focus on commercialising research in materials sciences, life sciences and biotechnology, electronics and engineering.

Heriot-Watt academics will have the chance of funding company spin-offs for up to three years, backed by commercial management experience, marketing support, manufacturing and sales expertise and marketplace contacts.

Sandy McKinnon, Heriot-Watt's director of technology and research services, said: "There are recognised bottlenecks to the commercialisation of even the best research in our universities and it is not just about money.

"The Forward Group are business people with direct experience in managing technological development with universities. It also recognises the creativity and capabilities of our academics and researchers and is keen to work with them to make sure that development opportunities are not missed."

Heriot-Watt has already supported 15 spin-offs in the past two years, helping to raise more than £5 million for them from traditional venture-capital sources.

Dr McKinnon said such companies needed good management from the start to become growth concerns. The partnership aimed to create a more sustainable model with academics able to work directly with Forward to uncover research "nuggets" and maximise company growth, he said.

Andrew Mitchell, managing director of Forward Group, said: "We will shortly be opening an office near the campus and will be recruiting specialists who have experience in the development of successful technology spin-off companies."

Heriot-Watt had a significant pool of strong technology initiative and world-class research, he said. "We are delighted to be partnering the university and aim to be investing in some two to three technology ventures per year over the next five years."

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