Imperial has launched an innovative programme to help academics create research-led businesses.
In a first for any UK university, the College has launched Founders Choice™, a programme offering academics a choice between two routes for founding spinout companies. It has been created by the College with the support of its technology commericalisation partner, Imperial Innovations.
The Founders Choice™ initiative is an exciting opportunity for people like myself
– Professor Andrew G. Livingston
Professor of Chemical Engineering
Imperial is introducing this programme initially as an 18 month pilot, in response to the evolving entrepreneurial ecosystem at the College. Founders Choice™ will encourage more academics to pursue their ambitions and create real impact through their research-led businesses.
Spinout success: About the two routes
The new Founder driven route offers academics a much greater share of founding equity – up to 95% – and more developmental freedom and responsibility. A basic level of support would still be provided by Imperial Innovations, including the provision of training, template legal documents and access to professional advisers. Imperial Innovations will also maintain any patents on the founding technology to an agreed level and for a set period.
The existing option for spinouts at Imperial – the jointly driven route – will continue to offer academics full support from Imperial Innovations, with founding equity split more evenly between the founders and Imperial.
The new Founder driven route at Imperial is a similar approach to that used by a number of US universities which are particularly successful in creating spinouts (including MIT and Stanford University), and recognises the knowledge and expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship that have developed among academics at Imperial.
An exciting opportunity: Innovators speak
The College now has many experienced spinout company founders, with extensive venture investment and industry contacts, who may wish to take a more ‘hands-on’ role in the formation of a new spinout company. Founders Choice™ affords them this opportunity.
Professor Andrew G. Livingston, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, is an established spinout founder who has previously launched and exited a successful company. In 1996 he founded Membrane Extraction Technology with the support of Imperial Innovations.
The College hopes the programme will encourage even wider engagement
– Dr Simon Hepworth
By accessing research at Imperial and with the support of investors he built a successful international company which was sold to Evonik Industries AG 14 years later. He is now planning a new spinout company and will be one of the first to benefit from the Founder driven route.
Professor Livingston said: “The Founders Choice™ initiative is an exciting opportunity for people like myself who have already successfully created and exited a spinout with the support of Imperial in the past.
“The Founder driven route recognises the skills and contacts I gained from my previous entrepreneurial experience as I plan to launch and progress my next spinout.”
Dr Simon Hepworth, Director, Enterprise, Imperial College London, said: “Founders Choice™ has been developed in response to requests for increased flexibility from our academic community and government.
“The announcement of the Founders Choice™ pilot has been well-received within our academic community and the College hopes the programme will encourage even wider engagement, more licensed spinout companies to form, increasing the recognition of research impact and commercialisation of research results, in pursuit of solutions to industrial and societal challenges.”
Tony Hickson, Managing Director, Imperial Innovations, said: "We have been building spinout companies with Imperial staff for over 15 years, and in that time the entrepreneurial environment at the College has flourished. There are now many members of academic staff with experience in industry and of launching new companies.
“We have worked closely with Imperial to develop the Founders Choice™ pilot programme, which will allow staff the flexibility to choose between different levels of support from Imperial Innovations.
"Experienced academics who wish to pursue their ideas with existing contacts can do so, working with us and those who want or need greater support can still get it from our experienced teams. A number of teams are already working with us on new spinouts to be launched under the programme, and we hope to see many more over the coming 18 months."
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