Glasgow pioneers free Intellectual Property for industry

Published: 25 November 2010

In a first for the UK, the University of Glasgow is to offer Intellectual Property – including ground-breaking medical and scientific research - to business and entrepreneurs free of charge.

In a first for the UK, the University of Glasgow is to offer Intellectual Property – including ground-breaking medical and scientific research - to business and entrepreneurs free of charge.

Speeding up and simplifying IP transfer, the move will revolutionise the relationship between academic research and commercial enterprise and make Glasgow the most libertarian University in the UK for IP access.

Through a dedicated University of Glasgow website - ‘Easy Access IP’ - cutting edge innovation and patents will be immediately and directly available to those companies and individuals who can make best use of the research. Former BBC Dragon, Doug Richard at the University of Glasgow

University of Glasgow Principal Anton Muscatelli explained the rationale behind the move: “One of the core missions of the University is the creation, advancement and sharing of knowledge and we aim to transfer as much IP into commercial use as we can, to the benefit of our partners, the community and the economy. Our objective is to demonstrate the relevance, importance and impact of Glasgow’s research and to help UK companies maximise their competitive edge internationally.”

Free IP from the University of Glasgow is expected to be particularly attractive to small and medium-sized businesses. It is anticipated that the initiative will lead to further collaboration with companies and long-term industry partnerships.

Former ‘dragon’ on the BBC TV series Dragon’s Den, Doug Richard is an enthusiastic supporter of the move, he said: “Providing easy access to University IP will increasingly be one of the key drivers that helps British business keep pace with global competitors. I welcome this bold move by Glasgow University which encourages greater and, crucially, quicker cooperation between research and industry to give companies who make use of it the competitive edge.“

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board said: “Technology licensing in the UK can sometimes be a laborious process which can inhibit the sharing of IP between universities and businesses. Glasgow University’s Easy Access IP initiative will make it easier for companies to make use of innovative research and technology for the benefit of all. The move will help build better and lasting relationships between research and enterprise which will have long-term leading to benefits for everyone involved.”

Glasgow’s innovative approach to IP has been endorsed by industrial funders and Research Councils UK (RCUK) who recognise that, while a small proportion of high value University of Glasgow IP will still be made available to industry through traditional licensing and spin-out companies alone, offering the bulk of IP to a larger audience for free adds value to the UK economy.

Professor David Delpy, Research Councils UK Champion for Impact and Chief Executive of EPSRC said: “Research Councils UK recognises that the successful application of research may lead to direct financial impact but, more commonly, delivers wider societal benefits.  We welcome the University of Glasgow's new approach to IP management, and encourage other research organisations to consider innovative and appropriate ways of managing intellectual assets - including recognising circumstances where free access might be the most effective approach - to ensure that potential economic and societal benefits can be realised by beneficiaries.”

Easy Access IP is available on the following webpage:

Case Study - Optical tweezers help measurement on micro-scale

Physicists at the University of Glasgow are combining high speed cameras with laser beam technology to enable researchers to measure movement on a sub-atomic scale with an extraordinary degree of accuracy.

Miles Padgett, professor of physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy, uses optical tweezers to apply pressure from the power of light to move cells and particles around without touching them.

Traditional optical tweezers have used photo diodes to measure the position of particles, but these are limited to one or two particles. Thanks to advances in camera technology, it is possible to film 4,000 frames per second, to watch many particles vibrate due to Brownian motion, and to measure the displacement of the particles to one billionth of a metre. Professor Miles Padgett, University of Glasgow

Professor Padgett said that optical tweezers can be used to examine in very fine detail mechanistic movements that are taking place within the body on a microscopic level every day – for example, protein and enzyme reactions in chemistry, and how the DNA repair engine works.

“It is like building jigsaws within the body,” he said. “There are so many mechanistic motions as cells and bacteria move and propel themselves, and optical tweezers allow us to observe and measure these movements to a very high degree of accuracy.”

Professor Padgett's research group is developing software for these camera elements for Hertfordshire-based Elliot Scientific, which produces high quality scientific instruments, including optical tweezers. The collaboration with Elliot Scientific is part is part of the Easy Access IP programme at the University of Glasgow, where the university undertakes to share some of its intellectual property for free.

Professor Miles Padgett said: "As one of the originators of the Glasgow Easy Access IP process I am delighted that the first transfer will be from within my own research group. 

"Having struggled previously with transfer of IP from my group into the commercial sector I was keen promote a mechanism that made this easy and quick.  My hope was that the energies we have could then be devoted to making the transfer a success rather than debating iterations of licensing agreements.  My belief is that as academics we have an obligation to promote transfer of our technology into the real world.  We are privileged to be publicly funded to pursue jobs we enjoy and this is one way in which we can repay.

"Of course some aspects of knowledge only have value if protected by patents and other legal frameworks but, in my view, the majority of our ideas are best served just by getting them out there.

"Throughout this experience our technology transfer office have driven the process forward with speed. My research group and I  now look forward to working with our collaborator Elliot Scientific in making this technology a commercial success."

Further information:
Martin Shannon, Senior Media Relations Officer
University of Glasgow Tel: 0141 330 8593

First published: 25 November 2010