Building on UCL's enterprise success
25 May 2016
UCL has a long and successful track record of encouraging innovation and enterprise. This support for enterprise activities helps the university deliver the widest possible impact from its research on the economy and society, both in the UK and globally. It also brings individual benefits to our staff and students.
Under the leadership of my predecessor, Professor Stephen Caddick, and Tim Barnes, the former Director of UCL Advances and Enterprise Operations, UCL has established an outstanding reputation for enterprise. As the newly appointed Vice-Provost (Enterprise), joining UCL in October 2015, I have had the exciting opportunity to both build on their achievements, and to ensure that enterprise becomes as enduring a component of UCL strategy as research and education already are.
Given UCL's success in this area, I am not anticipating any major change in our enterprise strategy but will focus on how we can best support the delivery of UCL 2034 goals, including those of addressing global challenges and delivering global impact.
Many notable achievements
UCL Enterprise made significant progress towards meeting the aims of its 2011-2015 strategy, which include supporting the vision of UCL as a global leader in enterprise and innovation for the societal and economic benefit of the UK. Notable achievements have included:
· The contribution of Enterprise to UCL's success in the REF 2014
· The creation of nearly 200 student start-up businesses. These include Bento Lab, whose founders invented a miniature laboratory for DNA testing and have recently raised over £100,000 through crowd funding
· Continuing success in the commercialisation of UCL research, with the UCL Business portfolio increasing in value from £93 million to £155 million. You may have read news earlier this month of the launch of the Orchard Therapeutics spin-out, which is developing gene therapy treatments for rare childhood diseases
· Growth in volume and value of consultancy activity via UCL Consultants, with annual turnover rising from £4.6 million to £10.1 million and numbers of consultants from 560 to 1,142.
The strategic objectives that UCL Enterprise will be focusing on are as follows:
Encouraging student entrepreneurship
Student entrepreneurship has been a significant focus in the past five years. I intend to build and expand this activity to ensure the largest number of students possible are given an experience of entrepreneurship, and supporting as many as possible of those who wish to explore the opportunity of establishing a start-up business. We will explore whether we can extend this approach to early career researchers as well, both to widen their experience and to increase the impact of UCL staff.
To encourage collaboration among our start-ups, we plan to focus entrepreneurship activity at our incubator BASE KX in Kings Cross.
Building partnerships with business
UCL has an extensive network of interactions with business and industry, working within virtually every type of organisation and at every level. Feedback from across UCL is that we could make these more effective and strategic in a variety of ways. Our intention is to develop a focus on the sectors of the greatest relevance to UCL, working across UCL schools and faculties to develop strategic approaches to these sectors, and specific companies, rather than pursuing localised activities.
Making more of our strengths
The REF 2014 results gave a clear signal of the impact of UCL across all our research areas. To build on this, we propose to focus on a small number of substantial, strategic research activities across UCL within the Grand Challenges programme. This is under discussion, but an early area for involvement is in the new Grand Challenge of Transformative Technologies.
One of the established ways of accelerating the translation of research outputs into application, commercial or otherwise, is to ensure that prospective users of research can be close to the researchers and research capability. This leads to the need to develop a strategy looking at how a research institution such as UCL uses space to support innovation and translation.
UCL's Translational Research Office (TRO), which was established in 2010, has been highly successful, supporting researchers in the process of translating their research into medical treatments. The success of the TRO is exciting and it is clear there may be opportunities over the next few years to explore other relevant innovation ecosystems, leading to the development by UCL of other translational offices.
To implement these objectives, I have proposed a structural reorganisation of UCL Enterprise and I will write an update about this when it is finalised in the autumn.
Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise)