New commercialisation models to help bring more UCL discoveries to market

29 October 2019

The launch of Portico Ventures sees the introduction of two new models for intellectual property (IP) commercialisation to support UCL staff who have created non-patentable innovations with potential wider impact, such as software, algorithms and know-how.

Commercialising discoveries

The wealth of discoveries and ideas from UCL have the potential to transform society and the economy through commercial licensing and the formation of spinout companies. This process is facilitated by UCLB (part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise) – which is one of the most successful university-based technology transfer businesses in the UK.

UCL’s spinouts have raised over £1 billion in investment in 10 years – including over £400 million of investment into biotech spinouts via initial public offerings (IPOs) in 2018.

Building on a successful pilot

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of spinout company opportunities from across the UCL community that have been founded upon know-how and software rather than core patented technologies.

Some of these companies have been primarily driven forward by UCL academic teams, but when such companies seek investment to fund the development of their opportunity, the academic founders are often asked by investors to provide evidence of access rights to the underpinning IP.

To simplify the licensing process, UCLB and UCL Innovation & Enterprise piloted a new founder-led spinout model with UCL’s Department of Computer Science, which seeks to ensure transparent equity sharing terms between all parties. The IP licence granted to the spinout serves to demonstrate to investors the ‘clean’ nature of the relationship between the spinout and the university.

Odin Vision Team

Odin Vision Team


Case study: Odin Vision

One such eligible opportunity that arose during the 12 month pilot was the application of know-how and software developed by Professor Danail Stoyanov and team to enable a more efficient and accurate approach to the detection of bowel cancer. This IP was licensed into spinout company Odin Vision which Professor Stoyanov co-founded with entrepreneur Dr Peter Mountney, which subsequently secured £1.2 million to develop the opportunity, including an investment from the UCL Technology Fund.

Integrated approach to IP

Following the successful pilot, Portico Ventures will now launch more broadly across UCL with two pathways: a founder-driven track and a tailored UCLB-support track.

The founder-driven route (light support model) will see UCLB scaling back the level of tailored support that it typically offers UCL spinouts, instead making available a number of online resources for the founders on the website www.pvp.uclb.com. The founders are encouraged to explore the variety of programmes on offer through UCL Innovation & Enterprise and the London ecosystem more generally. In return for an exclusive licence of IP to the spinout, UCLB will hold 5% equity fully diluted, at the point the company has accumulated its first £1m in equity funding.

The tailored support route offers UCLB’s standard hands-on, personalised support. It provides assistance in, for example: market assessment activities, refining business strategy, identifying funds, business plan development, investor pitches, operational setup etc. In return for the IP licence and support, UCLB will hold 10% equity fully diluted, at the point the company has accumulated its first £1m in equity funding.

Phased roll-out

To ensure an effective roll-out of Portico Ventures beyond Computer Science, a phased-introduction is planned from October 2019 across UCL academic departments starting with:

  • Engineering: Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering plus Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering
  • MAPS: Mathematics and Statistical Sciences
  • Bartlett: School of Environment Energy and Resources

With full roll-out across the university from September 2020.

Part of a wider and holistic innovation support at UCL

UCLB continues to offer a full end-to-end support model for IP licensing and patent protection that has proved so successful to date, particularly in the biomedical and pharmaceutical sectors.  UCLB also provides access to translational funding – including through the £53m UCL Technology Fund and £40m Apollo Therapeutics Fund.

UCLB’s CEO Dr Anne Lane commented, “UCL has a rich history of discovery and innovation spanning over 100 years – and an enviable track record in taking these breakthroughs out into the wider world for the benefit of society. UCLB has enjoyed notable success in recent years with some very high profile spinout companies that have had a tremendous impact. But we are constantly exploring how we can be more relevant to a broader base of academics, help them develop their ideas and ultimately accelerate the creation of spinout companies. We believe our evolved model will help to achieve these things.”

Meanwhile, UCL Innovation & Enterprise offers a wider suite of pathways for staff, students and alumni to explore the potential of their ideas for the benefit of society. That includes funding for proof of concept testing and knowledge exchange; partnering with businesses and other external bodies including charities; consultancy to industry, government and policy-makers; developing entrepreneurial thinking and start-up creation; and developing short courses for professionals and organisations.

Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise) said: “Part of UCL’s mission is to embed a culture of innovation and enterprise across all corners of this great institution. This requires a truly holistic and integrated approach to progressing ideas and commercialising them where appropriate. I’m delighted with the introduction of Portico Ventures, which I believe will complement and enhance our existing offering and encourage more of UCL’s community to get involved in this vitally important activity.”


For more information please visit the Portico Ventures Website.