An Independent Review of University Spin-out Companies, commissioned by the Government and co-chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, has been published today.
The Government has accepted all the recommendations in the review, which encourages further collaboration across the UK’s innovation ecosystem. The recommendations aim to enhance the economic and societal impact of university inspired innovation, deliver on the UK’s ambition to become a science and technology superpower, and help continue to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.
Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey CBE, FRS, FMedSci, co-chaired the review with Dr Andrew Williamson, Managing Partner of venture capitalist firm Cambridge Innovation Capital. The publication of the review follows eight months of extensive consultation with stakeholders involved in university spin-outs across the UK Higher Education sector.
The recommendations accepted by the Chancellor of Exchequer include a £20 million fund to support the foundation of more spin-out companies based on academic research at UK universities. They also include the introduction of innovation-friendly policies to accelerate and standardise the spin-out creation process and build on the TenU University Spin-out Investment Terms (USIT) Guide by recommending 10-25% university equity for life sciences spin-outs, and 10% or less for less IP-intensive sectors, common in software. The Guide was created and launched collaboratively by venture capital firms and university tech transfer offices, including Oxford University Innovation, earlier this year.
Professor Irene Tracey said: 'As co-chair of the review, I am delighted that the government has accepted our recommendations and committed new funds to support our collective ambition to harness the UK's world-class university sector as a crucial driver of economic growth and innovation. Over the past eight months, we have engaged extensively with the major stakeholders in the UK's university spin-out ecosystem and today's publication of our recommendations is the culmination of this extensive work. We propose a set of spin-out terms and practices designed to foster a more collaborative and sharing environment among academia, entrepreneurship, and investment. Our hope is that this will increase the number of spin-outs, reduce the time to negotiate licenses, and increase the spin-out’s success rate. It was a privilege to contribute to this report and we are extremely grateful to our colleagues for their willingness to engage in the review, and especially the advisory board. Across diverse sectors, including AI, quantum computing, advanced therapeutics, diagnostics, and climate tech, university spin-outs across the UK are rapidly generating economic growth, societal impact, and fulfilling career opportunities for the next generation.'
Since the formation of Oxford Instruments in 1959, Oxford has created over 300 spin-outs, start-ups and social ventures, over half of which have been in the past decade. From COVID-19 and malaria vaccines to autonomous vehicles and new sources of energy, innovation from Oxford is tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the world. They include Oxford Nanopore, a biotech firm which was founded at Oxford in 2005 and recently valued at £3.4 billion.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, said: 'Innovative, globally competitive businesses like Oxford Nanopore are making a huge contribution to our economy. It’s critical that we harness this potential and give universities the tools they need to translate cutting edge research into exciting UK businesses that start and grow in the UK.'
Chas Bountra, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Innovation at the University of Oxford, said: ‘’Our ambition is for Oxford to become a major global innovation hub. To do this, we are continuously improving pathways to innovation for our students, researchers and faculty members. We are working in partnerships with peer organisations, national research networks and infrastructures, and local science parks, to accelerate the translation of research into real-world impact through the creation of social and commercial enterprises. We are also building strategic relations with global corporates, funders and philanthropists via our global alumni network, and thereby attracting more investment into university research and innovation activities, in Oxford and across the UK.’
Oxford University Innovation (OUI) is the research commercialisation office of the University of Oxford and plays a crucial role in catalysing a diverse range of innovation through licensing, consulting services, and supporting the creation of spin-outs, start-ups, and social ventures.
Baroness Nicola Blackwood, Chair of Oxford University Innovation, said: ‘We welcome the recommendations in the Independent Review of University Spin-out Companies and commend the depth and quality of its reporting. We are pleased that the review recognises the role of Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) and see many opportunities for Oxford University Innovation to further develop our thriving Oxfordshire innovation ecosystem. We will continue to collaborate and serve our academic founders, grow our investment community, and work with our TTO partners and the U.K. Government to support the creation and scale up of successful new ventures.’