The Royal College of Art launched its innovation strategy this week, showing that commercialisation of ideas is not just for scientists, and offering a possible blueprint for other arts institutions.
The college believes that its focus on the consumer gives it an edge in enterprise and business links. Jeremy Myerson, professor of design studies, has been appointed the college's first director of Innovation RCA, a network that allows companies to engage with the college's designers, artists and researchers.
He said: "We're keen to do it our way, not map on technology transfer from a science-based university. A lot of university innovation is upstream in the lab. But we're on the high street."
A key plank of the strategy is to link up with its neighbour Imperial College London. Professor Myerson said Imperial had expertise in business and science but lacked the user-centred design skills to create prototypes and presentations for commercial partners. In return for its services, the RCA will take equity stakes in Imperial spin-off companies.
The college also plans to help graduates exploit their ideas. Because the RCA is staffed predominantly by practising designers or visiting tutors from industry, it generates little intellectual property of its own. The Selected Works scheme provides graduates with an income and innovation services in return for a share in their intellectual property. The Research Associates scheme allows them to get experience designing for outside companies.