UK: Imperial College produces most 'spinout' firms

London's Imperial College has produced more 'spinout' companies than any other UK university in the past decade, according to a new survey.

Spinouts are the act of an individual or group of individuals leaving a parent company to start up an independent business on the basis of special knowledge gained from the parent firm

According to the Spinouts UK survey, Imperial College was top, having formed 59 spinouts, followed by Oxford, Edinburgh, Warwick, Strathclyde, Newcastle, Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds, Queen's University Belfast and Cambridge.

The survey covered 150 educational institutions and 820 spinouts. Survival rates of university spinouts were found to be no worse than most other early stage firms, with 73% more than five years old and still active, and 61% more than 10 years old. The survey did not clarify the reason for this.

A in-depth study of Cambridge University and Dutch universities with similar initiatives and problems, undertaken by a Dutch based consultancy SCALES (Scientific Analysis of Entrepreneurship) in December 2008, found there was a need for greater awareness and research into the complexities of transferring technological know-how, property rights, and the possibility of long legal hold-ups in knowledge transference.

An important lesson to be taken on board was first to determine whether a parent firm would allow any transference of knowledge and the acceptance and assignment of licensing agreements of intellectual properties.

The study compared resources, motivation, staff, incentives, and financial and fiscal awards, and found little difference.

In June this year, at the Second Annual Energy Innovation Awards, the University of Bolton's Institute for Materials Research and Innovation, which specialises in smart or multifunctional materials and systems for renewable energy applications, collected the 2011 University Spinout Award.

It had developed a unique flexible hybrid fibre that can be woven into fabric, making it suitable for harvesting the power of the sun, wind, rain and tides and converting these transmuted powers into usable energy.