Report shows sharp rise in spinout activity among UK universities

October 24, 2002

Brussels, 23 Oct 2002

Results from a newly published University Companies Association (UNICO) survey show that academic institutions in the UK are creating more company spinouts than ever before.

Many see a parallel between the current state of university innovation in the UK and the situation in the US two decades ago, and predict that the numbers of spinout companies will continue to rise sharply. The survey showed that, relative to expenditure on research, the UK's level of company formation was higher than that of the US and Canada.

David Catton, Chairman of UNICO, said: 'The survey has highlighted a number of positive messages on the state of technology transfer in the UK - attitudes to commercial activities are changing within academia and there are a variety of effective and efficient mechanisms in place for unlocking commercial and societal benefits of UK research.'

The report is based on data received from 98 of the 122 institutions contacted, a response rate of 80 per cent. It shows that in 2001, 175 new spinouts were created, representing nearly one third of the total created in the last five years. However, the survey shows that a large proportion of spinout activity is concentrated in relatively few universities, with 25 per cent of respondents not having a spun out a single venture.

The report also highlighted areas for improvement in the development of spinout activity. Sustainable growth in the sector will only be possible if university staff are allocated more time and resources for such activities, there is a general need for clearer policies within institutions, and more seed finance and venture capital needs to be made available.

UK spinouts also fall behind those in the US and Canada in terms of the number of licenses and patents issued, and the income generated through them. Universities reported that 855 licenses were executed, yielding over 16 million pounds, while out of 743 patent applications, 6 were granted.

Mr Catton is positive about the results of the survey, which will become an integral part of an annual benchmarking process, but sees that there is work still to be done: 'Encouraging as these statistics are, the survey shows there is room for improvement. Clearly there is a long way to go before commercial activities become a major contributor to universities' bottom lines - but the potential is there.'

To obtain a full copy of the report, please contact: Mr Ajay Vohora: Tel: +44 115 846 6634 ajay.vohora@nottingham.ac.uk

CORDIS RTD-NEWS/© European Communities, 2001

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