How can you measure the economic benefits of university research?
One way is to look at the number of spin-out firms universities create in order to exploit new scientific ideas and techniques.
As Richard Tyler writes in The Telegraph a new report into life science start-ups suggests that Oxford University is doing particularly well in turning good ideas into companies. The report states that 'if all the Russell Group universities were operating to the same level as Oxford, in theory there would have been an additional 78 university spin-outs over the period [2005-09].'
It goes on to show that, in measures of numbers of and investment in spin-outs, Oxford comes 'way out in front of the pack' ahead of Imperial and Cambridge. It also highlights the importance of university technology transfer companies, such as Oxford's own Oxford University Innovation.
Of course, as the report also makes clear, spin-outs are not the only measure of success in terms of the commercialisation of research. But these new companies are the most obvious sign that good science is being turned into good business.