The Wellcome Trust plans to set up a technology transfer company to exploit intellectual property rights associated with research work it backs in universities.
The idea was floated by the Wellcome Trust at a meeting with nearly 50 university directors of industrial liaison recently.
The trust also wants to revise the conditions attached to its grants "to ensure that, where IP rights are not directly taken in the trust's name, exclusive exploitation rights are first available to the trust". If the trust rejected the right to intellectual property then it would revert to the universities. Many members of UDIL, the university industrial liaison organisation, are concerned that the trust proposals would limit the freedom of universities to continue work initially backed by the trust with other partners later.
David Thomas, chief executive of Impel, the technology transfer arm of Imperial College, London, said: "I have concern that if the trust seeks the right of first refusal to exploit all research which it supports, this will damage existing university technology transfer units which have grown up since a similar, stifling, BTG monopoly was removed in 1985."
Roger Holdom, managing director of UCLI, the commercial arm of University College, London, said that the proposals run "countercurrent" to guidelines issued by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals which state that intellectual property should reside initially with the universities.