Royal Academy of Engineering submits evidence to inquiry on technology transfer and intellectual property

The Royal Academy of Engineering has today published evidence submitted to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee inquiry into managing intellectual property and technology transfer. The submission calls for a renewed focus from universities on exploitation of intellectual property, and greater support for the UK academic entrepreneurs looking to spin out their research.

Universities have become increasingly aware of the importance of intellectual property generated by their research and have significantly professionalised their knowledge exchange activities over the past decade, with some elements within the UK TTO system demonstrating world-leading practice. The July 2015 Review of Business-University Research Collaborations, produced by Royal Academy of Engineering President Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, found however, that there is still scope for improvement in ensuring UK research is effectively commercialised.

The House of Commons has launched an inquiry to assess the extent to which universities and technology transfer offices protect IP and encourage public-benefit research, and identify ways that they, along with business leaders and Government, can further assist the commercialisation process.

The Academy has made the following recommendations that could help to streamline the commercialisation process and ensure that the impact of UK research and development is felt by society and the economy as soon as possible:

  • Universities should prioritise exploitation of intellectual property (IP) over its protection
  • The division of equity should incentivise exceptional academic entrepreneurs to drive the company forward. The university’s stake should reflect the value, amount and nature of support it provides
  • The skills and knowledge of technology transfer office staff should continue to be improved, so that they are fully equipped to support all parties in the process of spinning-out research
  • A lack of understanding of the commercialisation process amongst academic entrepreneurs can put them at a disadvantage during negotiations with universities and hamper business growth further down the line, so support for academic entrepreneurs is vital to spin-out success

Ian Shott CBE FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Committee, said: 'The UK is famed for its world-leading research base, but does not always exploit this research as effectively as other countries. New innovations are the mechanisms by which we improve our society, economy and quality of life, and tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges, so it’s vital that we ensure the brightest ideas become reality as quickly as possible. We welcome the House of Commons’ inquiry into the issue, and hope that, by working together, we can accelerate the commercialisation process and make the UK the best place in the world to innovate'.

The Academy has significant experience in assisting researchers with engineering and technology backgrounds in spinning out their research through its Enterprise Hub.

To date, the Enterprise Hub has supported 49 academic entrepreneurs from 21 universities through its Enterprise Fellowships. Through independent business mentoring from leading engineers with first-hand experience of leading successful technology companies, the Enterprise Hub provides the knowledge and expertise that is so vital for successful commercialisation. It has helped Enterprise Hub members to establish 43 new businesses, creating 140 jobs, and accelerating the route of world-changing technologies to market.

A full copy of the submission to the inquiry can be found here:

Managing intellectual property and technology transfer (346.59 KB)

- ENDS -

Notes for editors

Royal Academy of Engineering

As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook. We have four strategic challenges:

  • Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
  • Address the engineering skills crisis
  • Position engineering at the heart of society
  • Lead the profession

About the Enterprise Hub

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub is a national resource for the UK’s most promising engineering entrepreneurs. The Hub forms part of the Academy’s commitment to stimulate excellence and promote creativity and innovation in engineering. The Hub does this by making awards to exemplars of excellence and innovation in engineering who will be the founders and leaders of tomorrow’s high-tech companies. The awards include provision of money-can’t-buy bespoke support and one-to-one mentoring from its Fellowship, which comprises many of the country’s most successful engineers from across academia and industry, including prominent entrepreneurs and business leaders such as Mike Lynch OBE FREng, Sir Robin Saxby FREng, Anne Glover CBE HonFREng and Ian Shott CBE FREng. Further information can be found here:

For more information please contact: 

Jane Sutton at the Royal Academy of Engineering