Engineering chief calls for universities to open up IP to SMEs

The outgoing president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has said that UK universities should be encouraged to open up access to their intellectual property (IP) so that SMEs could commercialise it.

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The outgoing president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has said that UK universities should be encouraged to open up access to their intellectual property (IP) so that SMEs could commercialise it.

Professor Andy Hopper is preparing to step down after his one year term as President of Europe’s largest engineering body and is making a final plea to government to incentivise higher education institutions to share their IP.

Hopper claims that in exchange for the ideas, SMEs could offer universities a share in their business.

“Tax payers are already funding the creation of innovative intellectual property in our universities, so it seems reasonable that more of this is made available to UK SMEs that are best positioned to add value and commercialise it,” he said.

“Universities should be encouraged and incentivised more to kick start the development of new technologies and products by openly assigning the required IP to dynamic British businesses at minimal extra cost.”

Hopper added: “In return, maybe the university could get a one or two per cent shareholding – more of a goodwill gesture than a conventional transaction. This is all perfectly possible and is happening in a number of UK universities already.”

Hopper’s comments come at a time when the coalition government is putting in place a number of policies and procurement changes to drive the growth of SMEs in the UK – particularly around London’s popular tech hub, Tech City.

For example, key technology leaders working for the Cabinet Office are asking traditional suppliers to provide a certain amount of their government work to SMEs and are also introducing frameworks that have a significant amount of SMEs signed to do business, such as the G-Cloud.

The government has said that it would like 25 percent of all of its contracts given to SMEs by 2015 - it is currently achieving just over 10 percent.

Professor Hopper, who also heads up the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, is also urging the government to involve engineers in more of its decision making and policy creation.

“In the UK, engineering is still undervalued despite our rich industrial heritage and track record in pioneering new technologies. This is reflected in the make-up of the government and must change to help turn around the UK economy,” he said.

“With the success of so much future policy based around engineering and technology, I believe that it is time for the government to draw more on the knowledge and experience of the UK’s best engineering talent at the highest levels.”

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