Experts appointed to identify best practice in turning university research into commercial success

HM Treasury press release

  • Professor Irene Tracey CBE and Dr Andrew Williamson appointed to lead review into turning university research into commercial success.
  • The independent review will identify best practice in the field to promote innovation and grow businesses of the future, as part of the Chancellor’s vision to nurture the world’s next Silicon Valley.
  • Both experts will work hand-in-hand with universities, investors, and founders to advise government on how to continue to capitalise on the UK’s world-leading university research.

Two leading university and investor experts have been appointed to identify best practice in turning university research into commercial success, in order to help the UK fulfil its ambition to become a Science and Technology Superpower.

Professor Irene Tracey CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford and member of the Medical Research Council of UK Research and Innovation, and Dr Andrew Williamson, Chair of the Venture Capital Committee at the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA), will consult with universities, investors, and founders to identify best practice in university spin-outs – companies born through university research.

The financing of innovative science and technology companies like these is a key tenet of the UK Science and Technology Framework, with a view to strengthening the pipeline of high-quality science and technology businesses and spin-outs that drive growth in the economy across this decade.

The review aims to evaluate performance across universities and identify best practice in spin-outs and licencing deals for university intellectual property to promote the continued growth of the sector, which upholds the UK’s role at the forefront in seeding and growing innovative businesses of the future.

The UK university sector is a world-leader, playing an integral role in supporting economic growth and fuelling innovation across the country. The commercialisation of its research has also been on an upward trajectory over the last decade – investment in UK university spin-outs has increased more than five-fold to £5 billion in 2021.

The review launched today will seek to build upon those strengths, harnessing them to boost global competitiveness with other leading spin-out regimes like the US.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said:

Our universities are among the world’s best and are crucial driving forces for innovation and economic growth. We want the UK to be the world’s next Silicon Valley and to get there the government must help spin-outs to thrive. The expertise of Professor Tracey and Dr Williamson will be invaluable in ensuring we have the right support in place.

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan said:

“UK universities are long-established global leaders in research and it’s no accident that four of the world’s top ten universities call Britain home. However, our world-leading research apparatus hasn’t always translated into the raft of game-changing business giants you would expect. We can and will do more to support university spin-outs to become global business titans that generate highly-skilled jobs and rapid economic growth for the UK. This review will clearly set out the actions we can take to make sure the UK is the ultimate incubator for world class innovative business.”

Professor Irene Tracey CBE and Dr Andrew Williamson said:

We are delighted to be involved with this timely and important review. We recognise the fundamental role that university spin-outs play in driving UK economic growth and in stimulating an entrepreneurial culture and ecosystem in Britain.

Now is the time to review what the best processes are for both creating and structuring spin-outs so that we’re ready for this anticipated expansion in innovation clusters around the country. We look forward to partnering with stakeholders from the academic, entrepreneurship, and investment communities to identify opportunities to increase the impact of this important sector of our economy.

Professor Tracey and Dr Williamson will report back to the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology in the summer.