Leeds University spin outs lead the way

LSE's Marcus Stuttard said Leeds University spin offs have had a hugely positive impact on society and the economy
LSE's Marcus Stuttard said Leeds University spin offs have had a hugely positive impact on society and the economy
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“University IP Commercialisation” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue but the concept is relatively simple and the results can have a hugely positive impact on society and the economy.

What the phrase means is commercialising the breakthrough research, the intellectual property, being developed at universities in the UK.

From researching next generation oncology medicine to creating graphene and 2D technology materials, the businesses being spun out of our universities are at the forefront of innovation, job creation and a better quality of life for us all.

At a major conference at London Stock Exchange earlier this month, together with UK brokers, Numis, we brought together Government representatives, chief executives of many of the UK’s leading university spin-outs and UK and international investors.

George Freeman MP, chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board discussed the importance of creating stronger links between UK universities and the business community.

From regenerative medical devices developer, York-based Tissue Regenix to software and services provider, Leeds-based Tracsis and Rotherham-based polymer bead technology developer, Xeros, all have Leeds University research at their core.

They secured private and public market capital to support their long term growth, first from venture capital firm, IP Group before turning to London Stock Exchange.

The sector is a great example of venture capital, private equity and the public markets working hand-in-hand, creating a funding ladder for growth businesses to climb.

That’s important because these companies often take many years to bring their products to market and thus make money, making it critical for them to have the support of the right type of long term funding.

A dependence on debt finance, tying businesses into long–term debt repayments can be crippling; these firms should be spending as much as they can on Research & Development.

That means equity funding is the right sort of capital for these companies, be that angel investment, venture capital, or a stock market listing. Amongst the university spin outs listed on London Stock Exchange, a number have been brought to the market by specialist firms, who focus on early stage investment in university businesses.

And, since 2014, 13 university spin outs have joined London’s markets raising close to £2.5bn.

What too was made clear at the conference is that across the UK there is not only a vast amount of advanced university research but also a willingness to invest in its development and commercialisation.

Technology and science clusters such as Oxford, Cambridge and London often grab the headlines but from Leeds to Cardiff and Bath to Aberdeen, there is a powerful combination of brilliant academic research and entrepreneurial zeal.

Undoubtedly, the UK has a unique ecosystem which is allowing this sector to flourish.

A combination of world class universities, unparalleled financial expertise and Government support is driving the momentum in University IP commercialisation across the UK.

The building blocks are there and now we have the opportunity to capitalise on this progress.

We need to ensure that the UK fosters the growth of its home-grown university businesses and make “University IP Commercialisation” a phrase that resonates with us all.