Intellectual Property development process
Our central IP development and commercialisation team work with our academics and external contacts to develop the University’s intellectual property (IP) to obtain impact from our work, often through a commercial return.
IP development requires consideration of many factors, obviously starting with invention and technical research, but importantly must also understand previous contractual obligations, market intelligence and IP protection methods. The first step of our commercialisation process is a conversation between our academic-inventor and one of our Commercialisation Managers (CMs). Contact may be made via phone, email or through an Initial Commercial Enquiry (ICE) form.
After an ICE is received, the CM will work with our academics to establish a commercial case through building a collective understanding of the potential business opportunity. Part of this process requires the CM to answer basic questions about the research, for example:
• Is the IP wholly owned by the university or are there contractual obligations to funders/collaborators or links to previous employers?
• Is IP protection available e.g. through a patent, trade secret, copyright or other method?
• Are there any obvious ‘freedom to operate’ concerns e.g. an existing patent in this area?
• What is the potential market for the product or idea?
• What investment (time and money) is required to bring the idea to market?
Answers to these questions will be considered in relation to the technical field and will then impact if/how a project will be supported and developed.
Ideas that are considered to have commercial potential are ‘converted’ into a Commercial Opportunity Disclosure (COD) and project progress is then discussed and tracked at our team’s regular Commercial Assessment Review (CAR) meetings attended by the Faculty Directors of Research and Innovation, and chaired by the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation.
CODs are subsequently managed through a close relationship between our CMs and academics. The commercialisation team develop plans to engage investors and potential licensees, protect our intellectual property, invest University funds in proof-of-concept experiments and set project strategy. This occurs alongside technical developments and each activity is regularly reported back to the CAR group. The commercial team will also assess how the technology relates to our agreements with our preferred spin-out partners - IP Group – who provide their expertise in building intellectual property-based businesses and may provide initial capital and support to evolve ideas.
Successful outcomes from the commercialisation/IP development process can be a licence to third parties, the spin-out of a new company or use of our IP to generate new business partnerships or research income. If a COD results in a spin out company or a commercial deal then the University undertakes to reward its inventors through a standard distribution.