UK Unis doing better at making money off their research, says study

HFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) reports pre-Brexit strong growth in spin-offs and IP licencing

Posted 8 November 2016 by Gary Flood

'Growth' by Matthew Vassallo, FlickrUK universities are powering ahead when it comes to fostering new potential industries, new research suggests.

In specifics, that exchange translates an 18.5% year on year in terms of UK university income from intellectual property (IP), amounting to £155m.

Income from licensing deals alone rising 25% in the same timeframe, to £103m, while institutions made a very healthy £53m made in shares from the sale of spinoff companies.

The data comes from the Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction (HE‑BCI) survey, now in its 15th year. In its latest iteration, covering the 2014-15 academic year, the group behind the research, HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England), describes what it sees as happening in the world of KE in between higher education institutions and UK business and the community.

The annual survey is widely seen as the definitive source of national information on knowledge exchange (KE). (Despite its name, the survey covers all four home nations.)

Data shows a continuing increase in the exchange of knowledge between UK HEIs and the public, private, and third sectors, says HEFCE.

Commenting on the strong results, Joanna Thurston, partner and patent attorney at intellectual property law firm Withers & Rogers, “A few years ago, just a handful of universities were actively filing patents or registered designs, but now such activity is commonplace, particularly in sectors such as life sciences, software and consumer electronics.

Thurston also sees a cultural change in UK unis as being central to the stronger ties with the world outside the Dreaming Spires: “Because of tech transfer offices, collaboration is seen as a good thing, because [academics]have come round to the fact that it is great to see a real world result of that research.”

HFCE defines its mission as all about creating and sustaining UK conditions for a “world-leading system of higher education which transforms lives, strengthens the economy, and enriches society”.