Innovation & Enterprise


Working with UCLB: the IP commercialisation process and alternative options

Learn more about working with UCL Business (UCLB), and what your options are if they’re unable to commercialise new IP from your research.

Commercialising research can be a powerful way to make a real difference in the world.

Taking ideas to market can be a complex and risky process. Even the best ideas may not have a straightforward or successful route to market. Here we outline the process of working with UCLB, and some of the options and alternatives available to you.

Your first contact with UCLB should be through your Business Manager (BM). You may need to provide further details of your idea using an Invention disclosure form (IDF).

UCLB will use the information you provide to make an initial assessment of the business potential of your idea.

If your idea isn’t ready for commercialisation

UCLB may decide your idea is at too early a stage and requires further work before they can properly evaluate its potential.

If this is the case, your Business Manager will suggest steps you can take to develop your idea. This may involve working with other teams in UCL Innovation & Enterprise (for example, to apply for Knowledge Exchange funding).

If UCLB take on your idea

If UCLB agree your idea has commercial potential, they’ll work with you to:

  • identify the best route to commercialisation 
  • develop your idea further (this could involve sourcing funds to develop a prototype or proof of concept)
  • carry out some market research (this could involve talking to potential customers and researching if anything similar is already on the market)

If, after completing this work, UCLB agree there is a market for the new idea, they’ll work with you towards commercialisation. This could involve creating a spinout or social enterprise, licensing the new technology, or establishing a collaborative R&D project with an external partner.

In these cases, UCLB’s role would include protecting any IP (for example, by patenting new technology, registering designs or trademarks, etc.)

If UCLB can’t take forward your idea

There can be a number of reasons why an idea can’t be taken forward by UCLB. It could be that there isn’t a big enough market, or the product is too similar to others on the market or another existing patent.

If UCLB formally decide they cannot take forward your idea, your Business Manager will give you a written explanation as to why. They’ll also refer you to UCL Innovation & Enterprise who can help you explore alternative options for taking your work forwards.

This also means UCLB are unlikely to maintain IP protection (for example patents, trademarks, etc.)

In rare circumstances, it may be necessary for UCL to maintain patents even if UCLB is not planning to exploit them. In this case, the decision to maintain the patent will be made by a group convened by UCL Innovation & Enterprise and including your faculty dean or another representative. The decision to maintain a patent will be reviewed annually (or as required). The costs for maintaining the patent will be the responsibility of your department.

Transferring ownership of IP

If UCLB decide not to pursue commercialisation and UCL doesn't need to maintain the patent (or other IP protection), it may be possible for ownership of the IP to be transferred to you as an individual.

Ownership of IP is transferred through an assignment agreement, which will set out certain conditions. For example, there’ll need to be an anti-embarrassment clause, which gives UCL a financial return on any revenue made from successful commercialisation.

You’ll be responsible for maintaining the patent (or other IP protection) going forward. For example, you’ll need to use your own money to cover annual renewals costs, legal fees etc. and you’ll be responsible for instructing a patent agent.

You should be aware that, if UCL no longer owns the IP and has only limited rights in respect of its use, there may be restrictions on obtaining grant funding using the IP.


Download flowcharts illustrating the processes outlined above when: