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Week 17 March, 2013

Welcome to our weekly Global University Venturing ezine, with all the past week's university commercialisation news. Do keep checking our website for the latest news.

News Editor Gregg Bayes-Brown is flying out to Washington this week to attend NCET2, so keep an eye out for news straight from the conference and the launch of our PDF magazine.

To go to the news section in this ezine, please scroll down or follow the link here: #news while the comment section is just below or use this link: #comment.

For more, please go to: www.globaluniversityventuring.com

Global Corporate Venturing Symposium, London 21/22 May

250+ corporate venturers networking and sharing best practice, including the launch of the Research To Commercialisation Club (R2C Club) with universities.

Comment: Improving research commercialisation

A report by a powerful group of British politicians took to task the government for failing to “translate” academic research into commercial activity.

The same call could perhaps be replicated by politicians in other countries, judging by private briefings held by Global University Venturing with institutions and officials in the top research centres, including the US, Switzerland, Germany and Japan, around the world.

The UK’s Science and Technology Committee in its report, Bridging the Valley of Death – improving the commercialisation of research, said the country had no “coherent strategy to support the commercialisation of technological innovation in the UK and is failing to secure the full economic benefits of our world-class science base”.

Andrew Miller, Member of Parliament (MP) and chairman of the select committee, said: “The UK’s university and science sector is a global success, but the challenge for government is how that world class academic research can be translated into commercial activity.

“While we are encouraged by the work of the TSB [Technology Strategy Board] and the Catapults [a form of innovation centre modeled on Germany’s Fraunhofer application-oriented research organization], British entrepreneurs are being badly let down by a lack of access to financial support and a system that often forces them to sell out to private equity investors or larger foreign companies to get ideas off the ground.”  

The government can rightly point to the launch of the Catapults and TSB but has been putting in place what is effectively an industrial strategy to start to correct this “failure”.

In private briefings to Global University Venturing, sources said work was being done to link selected entrepreneurs to potential sources of funding and focus on a limited number of industries with high-growth potential. They said there was also a push from this year to connect a current list of 50 corporations with academia and government so they understand the research coming out of British universities and have a forum to discuss obstacles that can be removed.

Government has a powerful position as a convener of people but question marks remain over who is being convened and how links are made. And, even if the right people come and there is greater understanding of how and why academic research fails to make it to commercial success (trying to turn professors into chief executives, poor technology transfer officers acting as inappropriate gatekeepers, organizational challenges through licences and a lack of a cluster or large company able to support an ecosystem), how institutional memory can be retained given the high turnover of staff in these government departments.

These are factors that can stymie even a coherent innovation strategy but are rarely, if ever, discussed by those trying to work out why more is not done.

This trade paper will be working with its sister, Global Corporate Venturing, to try and facilitate this cultural or information gap by launching its Research to Commercialisation Club (R2C Club) at our Symposium in May in London.

The select committee focused on other challenges that can be perhaps better measured (and are also important), such as type and sources of finance, fiscal policies and public procurements.

Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, concluded: “The UK has terrific potential in its technology sector and science base, but small and medium sized businesses need better support to commercialise their ideas and get them to market. I hope the government recognises that it needs to be more proactive if it wants to secure long term growth and competitiveness in the UK.”

The challenge for the UK will be that others are also doing the same and the global battle to be the next innovation centre is has been going on since the country stopped its industrial strategy in the 1980s and there is some ground to be made up.

UK Partnership secures $45m in a year

UK commercialisation partnership SETsquared announces that it raised $45m investment for its Russell Group university spin-outs in a year.

Google nets Toronto spin-out

The internet giant Google has picked up DNNresearch, a spin-out of the University of Toronto, for its research into neural networks.

Cambridge aims for $2.2m

Cambridge announces a new enterprise fund to support the University's spin-outs with a target of $2.2m.

Yissum looks to plant $5m

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's TTO is looking to raise $5m to support development of agro biotech firms.

Brigham Young gets in on $60m SaaS deal

Brigham Young University (BYU) takes part in $60m series B backing software-as-a-service (SaaS) venture Domo.