Scotland to the fore with successful spin-outs

SCOTLAND continues to punch above its weight in terms of successful spin-outs, the latest study into the sector reveals.
Gibbs: need for IP auditsGibbs: need for IP audits
Gibbs: need for IP audits

The country accounts for 20 per cent of all active firms launched out of the UK’s universities, according to the 2015 Spinouts UK report.

In comparison, London is in second place with 14 per cent of the spin-out population, followed by the south-east of England with 12 per cent of the UK total.

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The report, compiled by Edinburgh-based research outfit Young Company Fin­ance, and edited by Jonathan Harris, said: “With a relatively large established base of spin-out companies, it would take big changes in the number of new spin-outs created, or exits from the group, to make a significant difference in the relative positions of these regions.”

Richard Gibbs, a partner in the Glasgow office of patent attorney Marks & Clerk, attributed the success of Scotland’s universities in gen­er­ating new companies to the dominance of the life sciences sector, which makes up 43 per cent of all active spin-outs in the UK.

He added: “The whole environment is conducive to spin-out formation, and there’s a real drive in Scotland to make things happen.”

Gibbs told Scotland on Sunday that a key emerging trend was the rise of digital technologies, which are breaking down the barriers between other arenas.

“I can see the digital area merging with the life sciences in applications such as personal health analysis and mining information for better treatments,” said Gibbs, who joined the patent profession after a spell as a research scientist and university lecturer.

However, he said it was “essential” for fledgling firms to have intellectual property (IP) protection in place to make sure their technology is “protected and future-proof”.

He added: “They need to carry out an IP audit to make sure they have the protection they need for their products. If they don’t, that would be a problem in the future.”

To help small firms make the most of their innovations, the UK Intellectual Property Office works with agencies including Scottish Enterprise to offer grants of up to £3,000 for an IP audit, which can help avoid expensive problems such as potential infringements and conflicts over the ownership of intellectual assets.

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The Spinouts UK annual report shows the University of Edinburgh generated 15 firms between 2010 and 2014, second only to Oxford University with 26. Eight companies were spun out from Heriot-Watt, while Aberdeen and Strathclyde universities created seven each.