Commercialising Academic Research Paper

Image: John Harwood

A thirst for a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the Universe is a powerful motivation for research. But pursuit of commercial success is also a compelling driver. The ability of these forces to interact and reinforce one another is propelling scientific enterprise forward.

Universities, industry and government, each with their own objectives, cultures and strengths, are locked together in a synergistic embrace that is fuelling a push to extract commercial value from academic research (see page S6). Companies are under pressure to uncover the next business-sustaining product before their competition, and universities are being pushed to deliver a pay-off for their research outlay. As a result, academic institutions are improving their ability to transfer science into the commercial sector (S13). Many are nurturing entrepreneurs, and, in turn, benefiting from the spin-off companies that they launch (S10).

Despite the speed and ease of communication offered by the Internet, researchers still congregate in geographical clusters, suggesting that there is an advantage to proximity that modern technology cannot yet overcome (S40).

Governments are motivated by economic growth, reflected by their status as the principle funders of science and technology. But the economic value of research, and what it means to get a return on research and development, is a matter of discussion (S20). And with science funded by the super-rich on the rise, governments may find themselves facing competition for primacy in funding (S43).

Different parts of the world face different challenges. Despite their research prowess, China (S32) and Australia (S22) have struggled with commercial translation, whereas Europe still needs to better align its policies, habits and business cultures with the goal of efficiently capitalizing on the fruits of cutting-edge research (S30 and S47).

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Do you have an idea that you think might be commercially interesting?

At Cambridge Enterprise, we collaborate with academics and students to help take the benefits of their research into the global community. Working with researchers, we bring together teams that can develop and implement commercialisation strategies. These strategies aim to turn ideas into opportunities attractive to organisations that can bring them to market.

Tell us about your idea

Whether you have the seed of an idea, software, or an invention that is already well defined, we encourage you to get in touch for a confidential discussion to see whether we can help you take it forward.

How we help

Every idea is different, and our teams will work with you to help you translate your ideas into commercial opportunities. We do this through collaboration both with you, and with external parties that we believe have the ability to help you achieve your goals.

The process

  • Once you have got in touch we will organise a convenient time for you to tell us about your idea and why you think it might be commercially interesting.
  • At this first meeting we shall explore with you whether Cambridge Enterprise is the right organisation to help you take your idea forward, or whether others may be better placed to help. In such cases a good starting point is the University Enterprise Network.
  • If there is a commercial idea that we can work on together, we will ask you more about the underlying research. This is so that together we can develop an understanding of the benefits the idea may have and what sorts of organisations would value those benefits.
  • We will help you undertake an analysis of the commercial environment to gather information about the attractiveness of those benefits to the marketplace.
  • Together we will explore which specific organisations may be interested. This may include reviewing the competitive landscape and looking at potential competitors already on the market.
  • We will work with you to develop a commercialisation strategy that works for you, to develop your idea into an opportunity of interest to the market. This may include: prototype development, further market assessment, developing and implementing an appropriate intellectual property strategy, marketing the benefits of the opportunity, assisting with applications for additional funding, or helping you to create a spin-out company.
  • The aim is to license the opportunity either to a spin-out that you are part of or to an external organisation. We will manage the commercial relationship and negotiation of an agreement that gives the licensee the right to commercialise. Throughout the term of any agreed licence we aim to ensure the opportunity is being developed and commercialised by the licensee.
  • Any revenue we receive from the commercialisation will be shared with you, your department and the University according to the University’s IP policy (for registrable rights).

Image: University spin-out Sphere Fluidics’ fusion biochip, which was licensed with the help of Cambridge Enterprise’s Technology Transfer teams.

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