Knowledge transfer and commercialisation


Research & Enterprise is committed to helping Royal Holloway staff to undertake knowledge transfer and commercialisation activities. For example, we can assist with:

  • Consultancy for external organisations: R&E provides the processes to support consultancy activity by academic staff
  • Partnerships with commercial, governmental or charitable organisations
  • Project development for commercial or non-commercial knowledge transfer
  • Identifying potential knowledge transfer partners for inventions and innovations, and conducting licensing negotiations
  • Protection of Intellectual Property when appropriate
  • The formation of spin out companies
  • Seeking sources of finance to initiate knowledge transfer activities
  • Preparing REF Impact Case Studies based on such activities

Benefits of knowledge transfer and commercial activities

As well as supporting the College's strategic goal “we will draw on our individual strengths and outputs in research and teaching to address significant global economic, cultural and social challenges”, commercial knowledge exchange activities can bring significant revenues into the university to help to support research and teaching and reward members of staff who originate or take part in such activities.

Royal Holloway's Exploitation of Inventions and Patents code of practice allows inventors to share a substantial proportion of the net profits from any commercialisation activity.

Knowledge transfer activities may also be used as the basis of Impact Case Studies to be submitted as part of the Research Excellence Framework. R&E also supports the identification and development of such opportunities.

Please contact us for help and advice

If you have research results which you feel may have knowledge transfer and/or commercial value, we would encourage you to discuss these with your Research and Business Development Manager at an early stage. This is especially important where protection of intellectual property may be a necessary or important element in successful knowledge transfer. In most cases publication, or even presentation at a conference or poster event, will remove the possibility of protection of new intellectual property by patenting. Where there is a compelling commercial case, we can arrange patenting very rapidly to allow for timely publication.

Protection of Intellectual Property (IP)

In many cases, successful commercialisation of research results or original ideas requires that they are protected to safeguard the interests of the inventors and the College. This can involve patent protection or consideration of copyright issues, for example for written material or the licensing of software written by College staff. Research & Enterprise can advise on this and, if appropriate, will arrange suitable protection. Please contact your RBDM at an early stage to discuss.

As well as protecting any potential commercial interests of the College and the inventors, it should be noted that it is now a requirement of many public/charitable and commercial funders that intellectual property is adequately protected.

Release of software developed by College staff under open source (OSS) licenses may be an appropriate course to take to maximise knowledge transfer opportunities, but in other cases may be a significant impediment to the most effective knowledge transfer outcomes. Please contact your RBDM to discuss the most effective course of action for software licensing.

Example knowledge transfer and commercialisation projects

The Department of Physics: a new medical device

Researchers in the Department of Physics, led by Professor Victor Petrashov, carried out fundamental research in quantum physics that led to the design of a novel very sensitive magnetic field detector. The new device, the HyQUID™, is broadly similar in functionality to existing generic SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) technology, but with significant advantages in overall performance. Importantly, it is also simpler to fabricate and calibrate.

Working with Research and Enterprise, Professor Petrashov identified potential practical applications of the invention, and industry partners who might be prepared to develop such applications. At an early stage, it was decided to file a patent on the invention to enable it to be licensed to such partners, and patents on further developments have subsequently been filed.

As a result, the HyQUID™ is a key component of the next generation of magnetoencephalography (MEG) brain scanners, now under development by the UK company York Instruments Ltd. The company has licensed the invention and entered into an agreement with RHUL to assist in product development. The project will enable MEG scanners to be produced at much reduced and affordable cost, providing wider accessibility:

The School of Biological Sciences: gene therapy treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a rare progressive genetic disorder involving all the muscles of the body, and affects 1 in 5,000 boys. It is the most common neuromuscular disorder in children. Professor George Dickson led a team at RHUL, working with researchers from UCL and the pharmaceutical industry, which has developed an innovative gene therapy for its treatment. In parallel, Professor Dickson worked with Research & Enterprise to patent the invention, and subsequently negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry to license it for use in clinical trials which are hoped to lead to an effective treatment.

Spin-out company formation

Royal Holloway has obtained funding for the formation of a number of spin-out companies, drawing on ideas generated by academic staff from several departments including Media Arts, Psychology, and Biological Sciences. Depending on a number of factors, forming a company may or may not be the most effective way of achieving knowledge exchange. The RBDMs in Research and Enterprise are very happy to discuss this option with inventors, in accordance with with RHUL’s Company Formation Policy and Procedures. Spin-out company foundation usually requires some form of initial intellectual property protection, often patenting. If a spin-out appears to be the most effective knowledge transfer route, R&E can assist in seeking funding to support the new company.

First steps / who to contact

The Research & Business Development Manager for your department can advise about opportunities, negotiate contractual terms and agreements, assist in seeking finance for commercial projects and arrange for IP protection if appropriate. Where the establishment of strategically significant new relationships with external organisations would benefit from input from specialist advisors, the Research and Business Development Team can also assist in arranging this.