9 Enterprise

STRATEGIC AIM 5: UCL is committed to becoming a global leader in enterprise and open innovation, supporting and promoting effective knowledge exchange, innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration with commercial and social enterprises.


The foundations

UCL’s foundations were laid in 1826 on the joint contributions of philanthropy and enterprise. Denied a Royal Charter to confer degrees because of the opposition of the ancient universities and the Church of England to its secular foundation, UCL’s founders proceeded instead to add to the benefactions received from generous supporters by issuing a joint stock bond to raise funds through subscription. Investors in the new university were promised preferential rates for the education of students
nominated by them, and a share of the annual surplus (if any).

Today, UCL’s focus is on applying and translating the knowledge generated in its libraries and laboratories into high-impact human benefit, whether it be through clinical adoption, commercialisation or social enterprise. Enterprise activity at UCL currently includes: education and training in entrepreneurship; industrially-related
and translational research; social entrepreneurship; commercial contracts and services including consultancy and executive/continuing professional development; commercialisation of intellectual property and the creation of new business ventures.

It is a highly successful operation. In the 2011 funding allocation by HEFCE in support of university innovation activity, UCL’s attributable income from innovation, on which such support is based, was in the top three in the country alongside Oxford and Imperial.

The value of entrepreneurialism in a university cannot be measured by financial return alone. Equally important are the benefits that flow to society more generally through university innovation and enterprise, and through social engagement as much as commercial. We see enterprise in this sense as a central component of our successful implementation of our Grand Challenges.

The opportunity, responsibility and expectation

Business networking

UCL will build on its success by developing a far-reaching and diverse range of innovative enterprise activities, and an extensive portfolio of collaborative relationships with commercial and social enterprises, by inculcating a spirit of enterprise throughout UCL. We need to create the conditions necessary for the development of future generations of entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovators. This will involve collaborative working with external commercial and social enterprises in order to make a major contribution to the UK’s long-term economic prosperity through knowledge transfer and provision of services. Our aim is to become widely recognised and acknowledged as one of the world’s most outward-looking, inspiring and entrepreneurial research-intensive universities.

Enterprise is part of the core mission of academia and provides numerous benefits for the UCL community and the wider society.
It offers benefits to:

  • students, through the involvement of members of external commercial and social enterprises in the teaching programme to provide a professional dimension to the curriculum and by acquiring professional transferable skills through work  placements and training in entrepreneurship and business. We will increase opportunities for work placements and secondments with commercial and social enterprises and the voluntary sector. We will offer opportunities for networking with business leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators and we will provide resources to support students who wish to create their own commercial or social enterprises;
  • staff, through collaborative working with external commercial and social enterprises to enhance teaching and research programmes by providing complementary perspectives, expertise, facilities and funding; they can identify new applications of basic research and speed up the processes of commercialisation and product development. We will promote even greater levels of collaborative working with external commercial and social enterprises and remove the barriers for such activities;
  • UCL collectively by the translation of the intellectual property and intellectual capital of the UCL community through commercialisation of intellectual property and by development of knowledge-based services;
  • alumni who have expertise in enterprise that they wish to share for the good of UCL. We will identify all opportunities available to maximise income from enterprise activities for reinvestment into teaching and research.

At a time of economic difficulty, UCL has a responsibilityto work with businesses for sustainable economic prosperityfor the UK. We will encourage and support closer working between the UCL community and businesses. We will seek to create new collaborative models that will allow the exchange of ideas, knowledge, technology and staff between UCL and external organisations. We will find effective new methods for joint training programmes in support of the provision of a highly skilled workforce, which is essential for maintaining the global competitiveness of UK businesses.

The future of enterprise

As a leading institution committed to maximising societal impact, we have already established a nationally-leading position in enterprise that serves as an excellent basis to launch a new transformational agenda. We will seek to broaden and diversify our enterprise activities under the leadership of the office of the Vice-Provost (Enterprise).

The five key ambitions of enterprise at UCL are to:

  1. create a coherent and unified organisational structure in support of enterprise at UCL: it will be broadly based, diverse and will impact on all aspects of academic life, and therefore, it will be essential to spread good practice and capture the breadth and excitement of innovative activity at UCL. We will ensure that the academic and non-academic structures are led, supported and coordinated, allowing effective institutional support for the UCL community;
  2. become the most successful UK university supporting university entrepreneurs: many highly successful academic staff are intrinsically entrepreneurial and see the creation of new enterprises as an effective method of translating research discoveries into the wider society. UCL has an excellent track record of creating spin-out companies, and of working in collaboration with external businesses and charities for the development of products. Similarly a significant proportion of our student population has an appetite to create new businesses and, in the current economic climate, it is inevitable that society will look to UCL to stimulate and support the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs. We will support and stimulate the creation of at least 500 new commercial and social enterprises in the coming five years by a combination of providing mentors, business advice, investment and space;
  3. embed enterprise into the academic core of UCL: there are many examples of entrepreneurial activity within UCL, but in some parts of the institution enterprise is still perceived as a minority activity. We will identify and support areas of enterprise in every academic department and division, and provide support for networks of enterprise champions while removing any barriers to enterprise activity;
  4. stimulate widespread collaborative relationships with external social and commercial enterprises: we will create a complete package of support to facilitate working with external partners, and will seek to significantly increase our industrial sponsorship of research and our volume of consultancy activities, and to become a leading provider of short courses for industry and the professions;
  5. publicise and promote enterprise activities effectively: effective internal and external communication is vital to ensuring that we appreciate the impact of our activity and to ensure effective recognition of the value of the enterprise agenda. We will produce high-quality promotional materials, contribute to national and international policy debates relating to enterprise, identify new areas of research into areas of enterprise and will work closely with alumni to promote the enterprise agenda at UCL.

Next: Creating value