Pioneer Leeds spins off knowledge transfer to private sector

January 10, 2003

Caroline Davis reports on how we measure up to the challenge of innovation

Leeds University has hived off its technology-transfer activities to the private sector. Leeds is believed to be the first university to contract out all its enterprise activities.

It has gone into partnership with Axiomlab, a venture capital company with a penchant for early-stage companies. It will take over the university's activities in knowledge transfer, taking a percentage of equity in new companies alongside the university and the inventor.

Outsourcing was necessary, said vice-chancellor Alan Wilson, to allow the university to operate more freely. "Our partners bring great strengths, qualities, knowledge and business acumen. Above all, they can operate in the market in a way not open to the university as a publicly funded body with charitable status."

A new company, Techtran, will be set up to develop and support university spin-off companies and to pursue licensing deals for university intellectual property.

Axiomlab director Alan Aubrey said: "Our focus will be on developing the implementation of a clear market strategy by generating early contact with potential customers. Techtran will help to unlock the immense value emanating from the departments of the university for the benefit of all stakeholders, including the academic inventors and their research teams, the university and the wider community."

Leeds claims to have set up the first university technology transfer company in the 1970s. Leeds Innovations has helped spin off 55 companies and handled more than 200 patent applications and 110 licences.

As many as half of universities active in technology transfer have set up their intellectual property offices as private companies.

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