Using design to commercialise university research

18 Mar 2011 11:18:07.453

A 87/11

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has awarded The University of Nottingham and the Design Council their top grant of £100,000 to develop a national programme to help universities use design to commercialise technology and other intellectual property.

The grant will fund a 12-month programme to embed understanding of the value of design into knowledge transfer and commercialisation operations in universities across the country.

This award follows a pilot which led to the formation of new spin-out companies and licence deals. Participants reported that design increases speed to market, reduces risk, and helps maximise IP value.

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The grant was won following a joint bid by the Design Council and The University of Nottingham to The Intellectual Property Office’s ‘Fast Forward Competition’, which aims to encourage and support the very best and innovative knowledge transfer practice, as part of its IP In Research and Knowledge Transfer programme.

Aimed at Higher Education Institutions and Public Sector Research Establishments, it allocated a total prize fund of just over £500,000 - which was awarded in various proportions – to ten successful projects. This programme, run jointly by The University of Nottingham from its Technology Demonstrator and the Design Council, will encompass three main elements:

· A Design Toolkit for Technology Transfer professionals enabling them to identify design opportunities, prepare design briefs, and effectively procure design services to help achieve commercialisation goals.

· Design ‘masterclasses’ which will offer an intensive one-day course for Technology Transfer professionals on the benefits of using design to commercialise their IP, and how to work with designers. These would be developed in partnership with PraxisUnico (the not-for-profit organisation set up to support innovation and commercialisation of public sector and charity research) and partner universities.

· A nationwide programme of events which will bring together universities with a range of widely skilled local design firms, to encourage professional collaborations and increase understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities which the TT sector offers for designers.

This latest development follows the highly successful Design Council ‘Innovate for Universities’ pilot programme, funded by the department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) – in which design strategists worked with six university Technology Transfer Offices to help accelerate 24 technologies to market.

Announcing the successful projects, Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Wilcox said: “I would like to congratulate the Design Council and The University of Nottingham. Through interactions with industry, charities and government, UK institutions are creating new companies, improving public services and attracting foreign investment. This is an essential driver of economic growth and prosperity.”

Commenting on their successful bid, Jesse Belgrave, Head of Business and Science at the Design Council, said: “This award is particularly exciting, because it confirms the recognition of design as a vital ingredient in commercialising the technologies coming out of universities. It will enable us to consolidate the impact of the Innovate for Universities programme, disseminate key learning to the wider HE sector and establish strategic partnerships between universities and the design sector.”

The bid was a partnership between the Design Council and The University of Nottingham. Dr George Rice, Manager of the Technology Demonstrator at Nottingham, said: “We have already found that design can both enhance and accelerate the transition of research outcomes to those who benefit from them through strategic, and sometimes quite small, design inputs.

“By embedding a working knowledge of design into university technology transfer operations, a powerful set of new tools and techniques can be applied routinely to developing potential commercial propositions.”

— Ends —

Notes to editors:

The Technology Demonstrator at The University of Nottingham showcases major technology transfer contributions made by the University’s researchers. You can find out more here:

The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as “the embodiment of the modern international university”, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK’s Top Ten and the World’s Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions – this ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power.

The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. More news from the University at:

The Design Council is a unified voice for a broad spectrum of design, architecture and public space, at the heart of social and economic renewal. We demonstrate how design can help build a stronger economy and improve everyday life through practical projects with industry and public services. We invest in the future of UK design by supporting professional development through projects, networks and organisations that invest in future talent and skills in design.

Story credits

More information is available from Dr George Rice, Manager of the Technology Demonstrator at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 823 2190,; Nigel Campbell, Head of Communications at The Design Council, on +44 (0)7825 442 339,
Simon Butt

Simon Butt - Stakeholder Relations and Campaign Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 84 67156 Location: University Park

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