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29 August 2017

Imperial gives founders a choice

Imperial College London and Imperial Innovations have introduced Founders Choice, a program that offers academics the option to retain 95% of equity.

Author: Thierry Heles, editor

Imperial College London has unveiled a new program that is set to support academics in setting up spinouts, offering a new route to company generation.

The program, Founders Choice, has been developed in partnership with Imperial Innovations, the institution’s technology transfer partner. It will initially operate as an 18 month pilot.

In addition to Imperial Innovations’ existing spinout program, which provides roughly equal equity stakes to the TTO and to founders, academics will now also have the opportunity to retain 95% of equity.

The new route will give academics more freedom and responsibility, though a basic level of support – such as training, template legal documents and access to professional advice – would still be offered by Imperial Innovations. The TTO would also maintain patents for a set period.

Imperial said it took inspiration from its US peers such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

The program recognises the entrepreneurship expertise demonstrated by an increasing number of academics at Imperial College London. It is particularly aimed at academics who already launched another spinout in the past.

The university hopes the Founders Choice program will lead to more spinouts and boost the ecosystem.

Tony Hickson, managing director at Imperial Innovations, said: "We have been building spinout companies with Imperial staff for over 15 years, and in that time the entrepreneurial environment at the college has flourished. There are now many members of academic staff with experience in industry and of launching new companies.

“We have worked closely with Imperial to develop the Founders Choice pilot program, which will allow staff the flexibility to choose between different levels of support from Imperial Innovations.

"Experienced academics who wish to pursue their ideas with existing contacts can do so, working with us and those who want or need greater support can still get it from our experienced teams. A number of teams are already working with us on new spinouts to be launched under the program, and we hope to see many more over the coming 18 months."

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