How can university spinouts help cement the UK as a ‘science superpower’?

Four universities – Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London – account for a third of all UK spinout companies, according to a report published today by the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub and Beauhurst.

Pharmaceuticals, research tools and medtech are some of the UK’s largest spinout sectors, and the data also highlights a rapidly developing AI sector.

The spotlight on spinouts: UK academic spinout trends examines where and how effectively innovations developed in universities are being turned into real-world products, processes and commercial successes.

Gathering evidence together in one place for the first time on the current state of the UK spinout landscape, the report identifies a potential trend towards spinouts attracting less new investment but more follow-on funding.

The data compiled includes which universities are successfully generating spinouts, their geographic spread, top sectors, investments and who is making them, survival and growth rates and exits, Innovate UK grants, and gender and nationality of leadership. The IP policies and stakes taken by universities are also examined.

Building on its own work to boost innovation through its Enterprise Hub, the Royal Academy of Engineering intends to use the evidence to inform the wider debate about UK innovation and enterprise. The data will be updated annually to track progress, identify the impact of any changes and draw firmer conclusions on the state of UK spinouts.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway comments: “Accelerating the time between concept and commercial application is critical to the UK’s productivity, growth and social benefits. I’m delighted that this report will help shine a light on what is required to build successful university spinouts, including how we increase diversity and maximise the commercial opportunities presented by the UK’s exceptional academic institutions.”

David Cleevely CBE FREng, Chair of the Enterprise Committee at the Royal Academy of Engineering, comments: “Spinouts are a key vehicle for getting the incredible ideas and innovations developed in our UK universities into real-world products and processes. As a national academy for engineering and technology, we want to understand how that is being achieved across the country, where learning could be shared, and what best practice might look like.

“This report aims to provide a baseline understanding of UK spinouts – how many, how much, who and where – and provides food for thought as to where we go from here. I look forward to future work from the Academy as we work with others to develop our understanding – through what I hope will become an annual report.”

Maria Dramalioti-Taylor, Partner at Beacon Capital LLP and project steering group member, says: “For investors, spinout companies represent cutting edge technology and innovation. These companies also represent a particularly interesting intersection of people and skills – people with incredible science and engineering know-how who are also entrepreneurially-minded and driven to transform the industries they are working in and monetise their innovations.”