Increasingly Universities are being challenged about the “impact” of their research on society. Impact is however imprecisely defined stretching from changing public policy, changing the direction of a research field to interactions with industry, spin-out companies and licensing. Traditionally, Universities have excelled at teaching and research both are fundamental contributions to society in many intangible ways. As a scientist however we can contribute to the development of new technologies and plan their exploitation from the University laboratory to the market place. This suggest an “Academic Covenant” if you are spending tax payer’s money and there is an opportunity to produce a return then an academic should have an eye to the exploitation. Academics in general are not experts at this but some are becoming academic entrepreneurs and can provide valuable experience, perhaps leading to a sustainable University.
In the group, and in collaboration with the Research and Knowledge Transfer office at the University, we have some interest in academic entrepreneurship. Having founded, funded and sold my first company EvanesCo Ltd I have some ideas from the world of business that might be useful.
Aims & Objectives
Within the group I lead the Knowledge Transfer Account funded by the EPSRC (£3.2M) and in collaboration with QinetiQ, to exploit technology in the field of Tailored Electromagnetic Materials. The Arkiris project (link to www.arkiris.co.uk) is addressing the questions of Investor Culture and direct development of projects in the field.
I founded my first spin-out company EvanesCo Ltd to exploit the technique of evanescent wave cavity ring-down spectroscopy within a fibre optic for the detection of molecules in the environment. The work from the company continues in the group with research on the optical profiling of petroleum products in collaboration with the LPI. The company was set up in 2002, took on some VC funding and ultimately sold to Trireme Systems: a case study from foundation to exit.
A second spin-out company Attomarker Ltd has also been formed to commercialise the array reader platform which was developed under the Attogram project. We are exploring many applications of blood proteome profiling for allergy and intolerance, immune system profiling, procedure outcome prediction and sexually transmitted disease detection. Attomarker is currently fund-raising and performing the initial market analysis for funding in 2011.
Butterfly wings are natural examples of functional electromagnetic materials with nanometre-scale structures controlling the iridescence colour of their wings. In collaboration with QinetiQ, the project is looking for ways to exploit the technology commercially to control electromagnetic radiation in specific areas of society. We have employed an entrepreneur and identified potential first products and work is proceeding on these development projects in the laboratory.
We plan three exploitation strategies in three years to commercialise the technology and also to create a pipeline of discovery, disclosure, development and commercialisation within the University.
Exploitation does not have to be a spin-out company but I have now formed two companies, EvanesCo Ltd and Attomarker Ltd. This expertise with business and investor connections is looking to establish the Arkiris process.