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Tech Transfer

31 October 2017

It’s full steam ahead for tech transfer

Last month, Global University Venturing wrote in its opening editorial that “the future looks brighter than ever”. Unsurprisingly, but very happily, we can report that this claim still holds true.

Author: Thierry Heles, editor

We live in uncertain times, as 2017 appears to refuse to give the world much rest. Our friends in the corporate world have seen their darling investee Uber, the US-based ride-hailing company, fall into disrepute, face a lawsuit from autonomous driving technology developer Waymo, fire its chief executive and co-founder Travis Kalanick amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment at the company and then lose its licence in London.

In the government world, UK-based and Ireland-based businesses have been facing the increasing prospect of a cliff-edge Brexit, that is the UK leaving the EU without a deal. The first challenge for British companies has been that the European Investment Fund, the EU-owned agency responsible for financing SMEs and a key investor in the startup ecosystem, has halted new investments in the UK.

And here in the university world, the UK government’s patient capital review looms large over everyone’s head across the country, while commercialisation firm IP Group’s hostile takeover of Touchstone Innovations, its peer spun out from Imperial College London, was approved by UK regulator the Competition and Markets Authority on October 17 and became unconditional a day later – marking the end of a saga that began this past May.

This might all sound like doom and gloom, but in fact spinouts and technology transfer continue to thrive significantly despite uncertainties. As the data review of the third quarter in this magazine shows, the sector has just completed a fantastic three months that have outperformed much of the rest of the year in several key areas.

Among the good news was the flotation of Nightstar Therapeutics, a spinout from University of Oxford that is working on retinal gene therapies. It would appear that Nightstar has managed to end a drought of flotations too, as this month Spero Therapeutic, a bacterial infection treatment developer based on research at Harvard Medical School, filed to raise up to $86.3m in an initial public offering.

See our in-depth report on Nightstar, and the flotation of its government-backed biotech peer Nucana, in this magazine.

Elsewhere, Kansas State University (KSU) Research Foundation, part of KSU’s tech transfer operations, celebrated its 75th anniversary last month and University of Minnesota celebrated a record-breaking financial year with 18 new spinouts, bringing its total to 119 since its office for technology commercialisation’s venture centre was opened in 2006.

Last month, Global University Venturing wrote in its opening editorial that “the future looks brighter than ever”. Unsurprisingly, but very happily, we can report that this claim still holds true.

We may live in uncertain times, but it looks like one thing might already be certain – 2017 will be a year the university venturing world will look back on as a successful one.

Onwards and upwards!

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