NEW OXFORD FUND TO BRIDGE 'INNOVATION GAP'
A new Fund launched today by Oxford University will enable donors to support proof of concept and prototyping work to turn more research ideas into commercially-viable technologies, products and services.
The Oxford Invention Fund, which will be managed by Oxford University’s technology transfer company Isis Innovation, is part of Oxford Thinking, the Campaign to raise a minimum of £1.25bn for the collegiate University.
It is widely recognised that there is an ‘innovation gap’ between the early stages of an invention or idea and the point when it is mature enough to be commercialised through a license or spin-out company. The new initiative aims to raise up to £5m to create a self-sustaining fund to help develop Oxford inventions to the point when they can attract commercial investment.
‘Many university-based inventions lack well-developed product prototypes and vital experimental data to help them succeed, and obtaining funds for such work from venture capital providers or research funders is still a problem,’ said Tom Hockaday, Managing Director of Isis Innovation. ‘The aim of this Fund is to support the work needed to make even more Oxford inventions attractive propositions for licensing or investment.’
‘The Oxford Invention Fund provides the opportunity for donors to the University to see their donations used to support innovation and enterprise in Oxford, and to see a return to the University from successful new business ventures,’ said Bernard Taylor, Chairman of Isis Innovation.
Isis Innovation has a long track-record of success in exploiting research discoveries and ideas from Oxford University. In the last ten years Isis has set up 54 new technology spin-out companies, over 90% of which are still in business, and concluded 500 technology licensing transactions. Isis currently manages over 750 technology projects and files on average more than one new patent application each week.
Isis Innovation has managed the highly successful Oxford University Challenge Seed Fund (UCSF) which, since it was first launched in 1999, has awarded £5.7m, financing 102 projects and prompting the formation of 31 spin-out companies and the completion of 51 commercial deals.
The Oxford Invention Fund is modelled after the UCSF, with returns from its investments re-invested in further projects so that it can continue to support innovation at Oxford for many years to come. It is hoped that one day money generated from the Fund could be used to subsidise scholarships and bursaries to help the next generation of inventors and scientists.
Examples of successes from the existing UCSF Seed Fund include:
Oxitec – Based on technology developed by Dr Luke Alphey and colleagues at Oxford’s Department of Zoology, Oxitec is developing environmentally-friendly insect pest control. In 2001, at a critical time in the company’s development, Oxitec received four awards from the Oxford UCSF totalling £288,775. The company was spun out by Isis Innovation in 2002. It now employs 30 people and is developing products to tackle, amongst other pests: disease-carrying mosquitoes, cotton-eating bollworms and flesh-eating maggots.
Oxford Catalysts – Spun out by Isis Innovation in 2005, Oxford Catalysts was listed on the AIM stock exchange four months later with a market capitalisation of £65m. It is the culmination of 19 years of research at Oxford’s Department of Chemistry by Professor Malcolm Green and Dr Taincun Xiao. In 2001 it received a £124,500 award from the Oxford UCSF to begin optimising catalysts for industrial processes such as producing sulphur-free diesel fuel from waste gas and removing sulphur contamination. It is now leading innovation into catalysts for clean fuels.
NaturalMotion – Algorithms developed by Torsten Reil and colleagues at Oxford’s Department of Zoology are at the heart of software from spin-out NaturalMotion that enables videogame characters to interact with and respond to their virtual environment. A £23,500 grant from the Oxford UCSF in 2000 enabled them to start programming and NaturalMotion was spun out by Isis Innovation in 2001. Since then the technology has been used in feature films such as Troy as well as videogames such as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Grand Theft Auto IV.
For more information on the Fund, and to download a brochure please click here.