THIRTY one universities across the UK are benefiting from a £60m investment to help scientists and engineers create successful businesses from their research.
The programme, announced recently by business secretary Vince Cable, is also designed to improve industrial collaboration and encourage more entrepreneurship.
The announcement was made during a visit to the London studios of university spin-out company Space Syntax which uses urban modelling techniques to design better cities and public spaces such as the redevelopment of Trafalgar Square in London and the replanning of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
The funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK’s main funding agency for scientific research, which will award ‘impact acceleration accounts’ ranging from £600,000 to £6m to the universities. The cash will help support universities’ best scientists and engineers to bridge the gap between the lab and the market, and help them become better entrepreneurs.
Cable said: “The UK’s scientists are some of the most innovative and creative people in the world, but they need support to take their best ideas through to market.”
The funding will support the very early stage of turning research outputs into a commercial propositions – the so-called ‘Valley of Death’ between a research idea and developing it to a stage where a company or venture capitalist might show interest.
It will also allow universities to fund secondments for scientists and engineers to spend time in a business environment to improve their knowledge and skills and return to their laboratories with a better understanding of the way companies operate.
EPSRC chief executive Dave Delpy said: “The research we support is recognised as outstanding on the international stage. These awards aim to make a step change in the impact that has on society: generating new business opportunities which drive economic growth, creating better, more informed, public policy.”
Entrepreneurs in Residence, Queen’s University Belfast
Teaming up experienced entrepreneurs with research teams early will allow researchers to accelerate the time between the discovery of knowledge and identifying a market opportunity.
The University of Southampton will directly support SMEs such as Covesion, an innovative photonics manufacturing company, based in Hampshire, which successfully spun out of research from the university’s Optoelectronics Research Centre.
The secondment will provide Covesion with access to facilities and intellectual expertise brought directly into the company to bring its laser crystal technology to new markets.