More investment vital to boost UK technology transfer

Posted on 13 Mar 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Increased investment in research and development (R&D) by business is crucial if university research is to be transformed into successful commercial products, according to the latest Science and Technology Committee report.

The report forms part of the Science and Technology Committee’s ‘managing intellectual property and technology transfer’ inquiry, which explored the role of universities in commercialising their research.

The Committee found that while there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to successful technology transfer, universities, and their ‘technology transfer offices’, need to better share best practice.

It recommends the soon-to-be established UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) should take a pivotal role in developing and sharing good practice in commercialising university research.

Science and Technology Committee chair, Stephen Metcalfe MP explained: “When we began our inquiry, progress had stalled on improving the UK’s rate of ‘technology transfer’, and translating our world-class research into commercial success stories.

“It is very encouraging to see that our work already appears to have helped refocus the government’s attention on this important matter. I welcome the emphasis on commercialising our first-class research in the government’s Industrial Strategy green paper and the funding it has announced to incentivise universities to engage in technology transfer”.

Boosting R&D intensity of UK businesses

The Committee is concerned, however, that previous attempts to increase research commercialisation disproportionately focused on the ‘supply’ of research by universities, rather than on the level of ‘demand’ from businesses.

R&D tax credits were highlighted in the inquiry as an important tool that could stimulate and incentivise spending on R&D, though both the eligibility and claims process were identified as complex.

Metcalfe commented: “Without a healthy commercial demand for R&D, the scope for universities to engage more in technology transfer is limited. Progress on this front is disappointing. The overall R&D intensity of the UK business sector is still too low compared to other OECD countries. Encouraging British business to invest more in UK R&D should be a key goal of the government’s Industrial Strategy

“We also want to see action from the government’s review of R&D tax credits. It should consider how the qualification and claims process for both the SME, and large company, schemes could be simplified so that they explicitly support business R&D in collaboration with universities”.