What is licensing?
Licensing IP you have developed at Imperial to an external organisation allows you to turn your research into societally beneficial products and services without setting up your own company.
What is licensing?
‘Licensing’, in simple terms, just means the legal permission to do something. In this context, licensing is when an external organisation, usually a private company, pays to use and commercially develop intellectual property (IP) that has been developed at Imperial under agreed terms and conditions, while the ultimate ownership of the IP stays with Imperial.
Licensing agreements can come about in a variety of ways. Sometimes companies will search registered patents and find that Imperial has one in an area of interest. In other cases, they arise through existing relationships between individuals in industry and academia, or through technology marketing activities by Imperial Enterprise.
Why do companies want to license IP?
Licensing agreements allow companies to access IP that they can use to bring new products and services to market, or to improve their existing products, services, or manufacturing processes.
Licensing, as opposed to buying IP outright, is often a company’s preferred choice for accessing IP that is at a relatively early stage of development and thus hard to value. Licensing allows a company to access the IP in a way that limits their risk, since they pay for it through a combination of an upfront fee to the College and royalties on sales.
IP developed at a university may be attractive to companies because:
- It solves an immediate business problem – for example, a fleet operator might want to improve fuel efficiency across its vehicles and seek to acquire a drag-reduction technology.
- It can create a sustainable competitive advantage – such as a new, cheaper means of producing an important material that is difficult for competitors to replicate.
- It can enable the development of new products and services that their customers will pay for.
- It could be more cost-effective than creating the IP in-house and significantly reduce lead time needed to develop it.
Why license IP that you have developed?
Commercialising discoveries and developments is a way to use your research to improve the world – for example by delivering life-saving medicines and medical technologies to patients, or introducing more efficient and sustainable industrial processes. Check out some of the technologies that Imperial currently has available to license.
If you have developed a new technology that you think has commercial potential, one option is to form a spinout – but not everyone wants to found their own company. Licensing means that you don’t have to worry about running a company and everything this brings with it. The organisation that licences your technology will often want to keep working with you, bringing the potential of new challenges and opportunities. In some cases, factors like scale or the market already being dominated by big players make licensing preferable.
The Rewards to Inventors scheme ensures that staff who develop new technologies at the College benefit from a share of the revenue generated when it is licensed out.
Our Industry Partnerships and Commercialisation (IPC) team can help you identify which option for commercialisation best suits you.