Science and TechnologyWritten evidence submitted by Dr Venketesh Dubey

HOW THE GOVERNMENT AND OTHER ORGANISATIONS CAN IMPROVE THE COMMERCIALISATION OF RESEARCH?

One of the main reasons for the bottleneck in commercialisation of research is the lack of infrastructure and suitably qualified commercialisation staff within the research organisation to take the research forward. On the Government part, there is a missing link that no external regulatory body exists for universities, like Ofsted for schools, to make them aware of the bottleneck. The HEFCE looks over the general investment of funding and output of the universities but it does not have any mechanism to see the bottleneck within the management. Although it may be argued that universities are autonomous bodies which do not require an external regulatory body, however, this view is flawed when it comes to internal functioning of universities, particularly for smaller universities. Such universities are run by a bunch of people at the top whose decisions on research and commercialisation are mostly political. The decision they take is unilateral and there is no mechanism to challenge or to overcome these difficulties internally/externally; even the so called “University Board” is not truly independent because they are recruited by the University Management Team. There are plenty of examples and evidence to support the existence of the bottleneck and strong ground to suggest that commercialisation of research in universities can be benefitted by constituting a regulatory body for universities. If the Government is really serious about the commercialisation of research the first thing they should do is to constitute a regulatory body for universities who can take independent view of researchers -this is likely to bridge the “valley of death”.

1. What are the difficulties of funding the commercialisation of research, and how can they be overcome?

The first thing that comes in commercialisation of any research is to protecting the Intellectual Property (IP). This is an expensive process. University usually don’t have resources to provide support for this unless they see clear return on the investment and in most cases such decisions are political. On the other hand, one cannot directly go to a commercial unit to seek for commercialisation before protecting the IP. Also, there are no external funding agencies to support the IP protection and hence is the bottleneck.

2. Are there specific science and engineering sectors where it is particularly difficult to commercialise research? Are there common difficulties and common solutions across sectors?

The common solution across the sector could be to establish funding agencies for solely supporting IP protection and provide support in commercialisation of research ie support should be available for post-research activities. Currently no such support exists exclusively within the funding bodies.

3. What, if any, examples are there of UK-based research having to be transferred outside the UK for commercialisation? Why did this occur?

If the infrastructure, support and encouragement are provided, there are no reasons why this should be taken outside the UK. Currently there is no way to get out of this bottleneck and no mechanism to report such difficulties. If a Regulatory body is constituted to look after the problems in commercialisation of research there could be a mechanism to overcome such difficulties.

4. What evidence is there that Government and Technology Strategy Board initiatives to date have improved the commercialisation of research?

The more important question here is; has the initiatives taken by the Government and the Technology Strategy Board reached to the actual people who are involved in research? The answer is “No”, so regardless of such initiatives no improvements can be seen. Give the leaders of research a voice by constituting a Regulatory body!

5. What impact will the Government’s innovation, research and growth strategies have on bridging the valley of death?

There will be enormous impact of Government’s strategies on bridging the valley of death if they monitor how this is being implemented in a research organisation and how HEFCE funds are being utilised.

6. Should the UK seek to encourage more private equity investment (including venture capital and angel investment) into science and engineering sectors and if so, how can this be achieved?

This could something be of a welcome approach for the commercialisation of research, however, the mechanism of such investment should be worked out. The main stumbling block in this case is who takes the lead, private investor or the IP creator? The way forward is to create a dependable/regional link between investor and investee.

7. What other types of investment or support should the Government develop?

First of all the Government should create a direct link with Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and Technology Strategy Board with Universities. People with appropriate expertise from academic community should be included in the policy making and there should be a Regulatory body to monitor the internal functioning of research organisations. Government should invest in this infrastructure development and provide flexible support for the potential projects to take research to commercialisation. This all can be achieved if there is an independent regulatory body that can monitor the resource utilisation and report back the bottleneck in commercialisation of research.

February 2012

Prepared 11th March 2013