Spin-off division to be spun off

September 24, 2004

The Cambridge department that spins off researchers' ideas for commercial exploitation is itself set to be spun off as part of an overhaul of the help available to academics applying for grants or developing their ideas, Paul Hill writes.

An internal review of the university's Research Services Division concludes that "technology-transfer work" should be dealt with separately from applications for grants and that a new director should be appointed to help form spin-off companies.

The review team found that the RSD - which handles 1,850 grant applications to research councils or medical charities each year - "provides excellent service for standard research grants.

"However, the division is not perceived as performing well with non-standard work, which encompasses most industrial contracts and some clinical-related research grants."

While making a clear recommendation to separate the spin-off section - called Cambridge Enterprise - from the RSD, the review team did not conclude whether it should be constituted as a company wholly owned by the university or be kept in-house as a separate administrative office.

The new director - who is expected to be appointed before long - will have to make sure that Cambridge Enterprise can cover its own costs.

According to the review team: "If managed correctly, Cambridge Enterprise can become a source of meaningful revenues for academics, departments and the university."

Since the creation of the RSD in 2000, the university's income from grants and contracts has risen from £109 million to £175 million.

In 2003-04, the university launched 26 companies - three were spin-offs of academic ideas and 23 were start-ups by staff and students.

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