News release

Date: 26th November 2014

Multi-million pound fund to boost UK university spin-outs and research

Research from universities across the South of England could be commercialised and turned into successful businesses faster than ever before, thanks to a multi-million pound project announced today (November 26) by Minister for Universities and Science, Greg Clark MP.

UK, 26th November 2014. – Research from universities across the South of England could be commercialised and turned into successful businesses faster than ever before, thanks to a multi-million pound project announced today (November 26) by Minister for Universities and Science, Greg Clark MP.

Funded by HEFCE and Innovate UK, the £3.2 million ‘iCURE’ project aims to ‘bridge the valley of death’ identified by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. The project will help address issues raised in the Government’s response to the Committee’s inquiry last year, including the importance of innovation by universities in managing intellectual property and of attention to the availability of ‘proof of concept’ funding.

iCURE will see HEFCE, Innovate UK and university enterprise partnership SETsquared work together on a pilot to tackle these issues and help accelerate research being successfully commercialised and ‘spun out’ new high-potential companies.

Under the programme, early-stage researchers at the five SETsquared universities (Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey) will be given tailored training, mentoring and funds to speed up the commercialisation of their ideas, technologies and products. The project was inspired by Innovate UK’s review of a similar programme operated by the US National Science Foundation, and is funded by a £2.8 million HEFCE cash injection and £400,000 from Innovate UK.

Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark MP said:

“Collaboration is the key to turning the best research into new businesses. We are proud that SETsquared is already Europe’s best incubator, and second in the world, which is why we are supporting this pilot scheme. It will provide skills, support and mentoring to help the UK’s best researchers turn their ideas into commercial success. This strengthens the UK’s position as the best place for science and technology research, and drives forward our economic growth.”

Don Spalinger, Board member of SETsquared and Director of Research and Innovation Services at the University of Southampton said that iCURE could see university research being commercialised faster than ever before, something that is vital for universities. He added:

“Particularly in the field of technology, where everything evolves so fast, getting a product to market quickly can make the difference between creating a successful business and falling behind. The flexibility of this programme and the way it is run will allow researchers to assess their markets much faster, meaning they can potentially seek investment or sell their ideas within just a few months.”

David Sweeney, Director for Research Education and Knowledge Exchange, HEFCE, said:

“The SETsquared partnership has an excellent record for knowledge exchange since it was formed with support from HEFCE over 10 years ago. It is important that the iCURE programme has been designed in partnership with the technology transfer staff of universities themselves, demonstrating that higher education takes innovation in intellectual property management very seriously. This addresses an important recommendation of the “valley of death” inquiry and the government response, which stressed the importance of autonomous universities playing a major part in the innovation ecosystem.”

Mark Glover, Director of Strategy at Innovate UK said:

“The United Kingdom’s research is world-renowned, but we need to be fast if we're going to make the most of the business opportunities that research brings with it. Innovate UK helps bridge the gap between concept and commercialisation and this scheme, along with the additional funding we're making available to the spin-outs, will help some of our best universities move quickly to create successful, high-growth businesses.”

Innovate UK, which helps businesses bring new innovations to the market, is separately making £6 million available over the next two years to help university spin-out companies develop faster and be more attractive to private investors.

The iCURE programme was announced today as SETsquared held its 11th annual investment showcase, Accelerating Growth, at The Shard.


Notes to editors

iCURE stands for ‘Innovation and Commercialisation of University Research’. The programme will work as follows:
• Individual universities will put forward key research outputs that may have the potential for commercialisation.
• These ‘prospects’ will be filtered to identify which are of sufficient interest to progress.
• For each successful prospect, an ‘entrepreneurial team’ will be assembled, comprising the original researcher, an entrepreneurial lead (a recent graduate), and a mentor (supplying skills such as market knowledge, commercialisation expertise).
• The team will be provided with entrepreneurial training and support for a hypothesis-driven business model discovery process. Funding is provided for time and travel to explore the market opportunities and develop and check ideas. During this stage the commercial potential of the prospect will be validated.
• Each prospect will be developed by the entrepreneurial team to a stage where a business proposition can be delivered in a standard format (such as business model canvas). The prospects will then be submitted to a competitive review process, with those with the greatest potential to create a new business being ‘spun out’.
• Other proposals may be taken forward in different ways (for instance through IP licensing).
• Once completed the pilot will be reviewed and (with further development if necessary) considered for wider implementation across the UK.

The programme will also benefit teams that do not move to spin-out. Don Spalinger adds: “We do not expect that every team going through the programme will result in a spin-out opportunity. The successful output for some teams will be the licensing of the technology or product idea to an existing company which will commercialise it through their existing channels. Other teams will gain invaluable knowledge of the marketplace, which will be taken back into the research lab to either refine the ideas and technologies, or take the research down another path that they have discovered from their interactions with the marketplace.”

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) promotes and funds high-quality, cost-effective teaching and research to meet the diverse needs of students, the economy and society. Our responsibilities are to distribute funds, safeguard quality and assure the stewardship of public money. We work closely with universities, colleges and other partners to develop policies, achieve excellence and impact in education and research, and to provide opportunities for all those who have the ability to benefit from higher education. For the academic year 2014-15, HEFCE will allocate allocate £3.88 billion to 130 universities and higher education colleges and 212 further education colleges.

About SETsquared
SETsquared is a partnership between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, which specialises in growing high tech start-ups through its incubation programme and other acceleration services.

It provides mentoring, access to investors and corporates and a wide range of industry experts through its network and training programmes.

Its business incubation programme is ranked the best in Europe and second in the world and over the last decade it has developed over 1,000 high tech start-ups that have generated some £1bn in investment.

It provides services from its innovation centres at the five universities but also supports companies virtually, giving every member access to the world leading business support.

Find out more at

About Innovate UK
Innovate UK is the new name for the Technology Strategy Board – we are the UK’s innovation agency, accelerating economic growth. We know that taking a new idea to market is a challenge. We fund, support and connect innovative businesses through a unique mix of people and programmes to accelerate sustainable economic growth. For further information visit our website at

For further information please contact:
For more information or to attend SETsquared’s event at The Shard today from 4 to 6pm call Laura Downton on 07834393111.

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