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£8 million boost to expand ICURe research commercialisation programme

Warwick University and Queen’s University Belfast are to help researchers get commercially promising ideas to the marketplace more quickly thanks to an £8 million funding boost, Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced.

The universities will join the expanded Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) pilot programme, supported by Innovate UK. The programme offers university researchers with innovative ideas up to £35,000 to ‘get out of the lab’ and validate these in the marketplace.

Having operated since 2014, it is estimated to date every £1 of investment spent through ICURe generates almost £4 of economic benefits, creating new jobs and businesses.

The scheme has so far engaged 160 University research teams which have generated more than 11,000 business links around the world and, from these, created 120 jobs in 44 new companies in the UK.

Now in the coming year, Queens University Belfast and University of Warwick will work alongside the programme’s original delivery partner SETsquared Partnership (the commercialisation partnership of the Universities of Southampton, Surrey, Bristol, Bath and Exeter) to run and grow the programme across the UK.    

The funding will increase the number of research teams supported up to a total of 48. 

The Government’s industrial strategy emphasises the importance of research, innovation and skills to developing a strong economy and setting a path for Britain to lead in the high-tech, highly-skilled industries of the future. ICURe’s focus is on training early career researchers to find the right route to commercialisation and helping them develop the necessary business skills, connections and expertise to pursue their ideas. 

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:  “Britain is famous for its innovations. From the humble toothbrush to hip replacements, the ATM to the World Wide Web – these inventions have had a huge impact on our daily lives. Up and down the UK, some of the brightest and best talent are undertaking research which can deliver extraordinary innovations that will transform our society for the better.

“Through the Industrial Strategy, Grand Challenges and the funding announced today, we are helping turn innovative new ideas into products and services which could help change our lives and keep the UK as a world leader in developing the products of tomorrow.”

In total, £3 million of this funding will help new start-up companies emerging from ICURe to establish a business and lay the foundations for growth. The funding will be competitively awarded by Innovate UK, which is part of the new national funding body UK Research and Innovation.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive Sir Mark Walport said: “Supporting the very best talent and bridging the gap between research and commercialisation are two of UK Research and Innovation’s core objectives. We are a world-leading research nation and we must ensure that our innovation ecosystem supports the effective translation of this research into products with real-world impact.

“The ICURe Innovation-to-Commercialisation programme enables this translation by providing researchers with the funding to move ideas out of universities and into the marketplace, where they will have the greatest impact. From converting Medtech discoveries into new treatments to developing portable devices to counter infectious diseases, this additional funding will support ground-breaking projects that will enable us to meet future challenges and remain at the cutting-edge of research and innovation.”

SETsquared first created, designed and delivered ICURe working with Innovate UK and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Don Spalinger, Chairman of the SETsquared Partnership, and Director, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Southampton said:  “SETsquared created ICURe to overcome some of the barriers of getting the outputs from the UK’s world class universities research labs into the commercial marketplace.  ICURe’s results from its first 3 years of operation go beyond our expectations.  This expansion of ICURe’s nation roll-out will enable even more research teams at more UK universities to take advantage of its proven capabilities.  ICURe enables university research teams to explore all avenues of commercialisation, from collaborative research to consultancy to licensing to spin-outs.  The ICURe experience empowers the university research teams to work more closely with businesses in all of their future activities.”  

Professor Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick, said: “Warwick is renowned for the many ways it acts as a highly effective bridge for innovation between academic research and industry, and we are therefore delighted to be a key part of the national rollout of ICURe with its focus on helping early-career researchers taking their innovations into the market place. Warwick will also draw on the innovation based partnerships across the Midlands such as Midlands Innovation, the Midlands Engine, and the Midlands Enterprise Universities teams, to ensure that this programme helps create even more innovation based jobs and business growth across our region.”

Dr Paul Donachy, Head of Commercial Development at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Having had nine teams graduate from ICURe, and having run three of our own Lean Launchpad programmes,  Queen’s and Qubis have been pioneers with lean startup in tech transfer. The focus on the customer-need is the perfect antidote to ‘tech-push’. We have already seen significant commercial benefits, whether measured by deals done, or learning achieved – especially with early-career researchers. We are convinced that ‘Lean Changes’ changes everything’ 

Case studies: Read about the sucesses of previous participants in the ICURe programmes: case studies

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