Technology is the building blocks of modern civilization and is in a constant quest for improvement, the driving for behind technology advancement is innovation.
One of the main hubs we have in the United Kingdom for this very innovation technology relies upon is universities and the research and development they undertake.
When your consider the mean at their disposal compared to big business, blue-chip multi-billion dollar companies, universities are producing results that are well beyond what their means should allow.
Yet, it is still major problem for many universities to obtain the funding they require.
A report published last year by the Russell Group of leading research-focused universities found that the UK performs better than Switzerland, Germany or France on the number of license agreements to exploit university research findings.
The UK government has stated they will believe this success is no small part related to the way that money invested in research and development projects in the UK is spent.
David Willetts, former minister for universities and science, said in 2014 that the UK was producing twice as many spinouts per $1m spent on R&D as the US.
Oxford university has produced the highest number of spinouts in the UK
UK universities have produced 567 spin-off companies since 2007.
The problem, says Rich Ferrie, director of operations at the University of Manchester’s intellectual property office, is that investors in UK spinouts tend to be risk-averse, which leads to a lack of funding. “There is a high degree of risk that the technology might fall over,” he says. “And if the technology or product does work and goes to market, the early-stage investors are the guys that get diluted.” As a result, he adds, UK investment comes in small tranches and is milestone-driven while in the US it seems “they are much more likely to put a larger investment in at an earlier stage”.
The government says it is looking at how it can do more to support the universities.
“We cannot afford to allow our competitors to steal a march on us,” says a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
“We are also providing £100m over the next four years to enable universities across the UK to work together more effectively alongside businesses to commercialize their ideas,” says BEIS.
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