Oxford Science Industries is the latest attempt to cpaitalise on the commercialisation of intellectual property developed in universities. The Financial Times resported today that Oxford University together with its technology commercialisation subsidiary, Isis Innovation, had partnered with OSI to raise GBP 300 Million to exploit research from the oldest university in the UK (and this author’s alma mater…). The concept is certainly interesting, given Oxford’s succesful track record over the years in exploiting research from the university. The provision of early-stage capital is crucial in ensuring that university research is turned into successful products. More important will be, however, the support from the fund in the form of expertise and know-how to enable scaling up of the technologies.
This author has frequently seen promising intellectual property not being exploited because of the lack of understanding how business really works. He remembers negotiating for several months with one research group from a university (that will remain nameless) to obtain rights to some interesting research. The professor was convinced his IP could be commercially exploited immediately and the university wanted an appropriate remuneration. His company colleagues on the other hand pointed out the need for further development, testing adn certification. They saw only a long-term potential business and were not at all convinced of any immediate success. Both sides valued the technology and IP differently - and there was no way of bridging the gap. He can only wish the venture well in both managing the IP development and the expectations of the university with the requirements of potential licensees and investers.