UCL joins other leading universities in backing new guidelines for commercialising research

21 November 2023

Two research in a scientific laboratory.

UCL has joined other leading universities in supporting new measures set out in the UK government’s much-anticipated ‘Spinout Review’, published today. This framework provides best practice guidelines designed to help commercialise UK universities’ world-leading research and accelerate the next generation of spinout businesses.

Successful examples include UCL spinout Autolus Therapeutics, which develops pioneering CAR T-cell therapies that harness and reprogramme the body’s own immune cells to fight cancer. To date, the company has raised over US$750m in investment to develop new treatments and progress clinical trials, and now employs more than 400 staff in London and Stevenage.

The Review, unveiled today (21st November 2023), takes its lead from the University Spinout Investment Terms Guide (USIT), published in April, which was developed in consultation with the TenU group of the UK’s leading university Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs), including UCL Business Ltd (UCLB), and those from Imperial, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester and Edinburgh – and seven of their leading investors.

Best practice guidelines include:

  • Streamlining spinout deals as per TenU’s USIT Guide, clearly defining spinout timelines.
  • Developing specific guidance for software spinouts, which typically require less support.
  • Building on the USIT guidance to encourage more transparency and the provision of spinout term sheets, outlining key project timeline expectations to reduce negotiation time, similar to the US University Startup Basic Outlicensing Template.
  • Encourage established spinout companies to adopt equity splits that favour those committed to future workloads

Dr Anne Lane, CEO of UCL Business (UCLB), said: “For 30 years, UCLB has created successful spinout businesses from UCL’s ground-breaking research, which have raised £2.75bn investment in the last 5 years alone.  As well as creating jobs and economic impact, these spinouts scale up solutions to complex societal challenges, from reducing carbon emissions to therapies for rare hereditary diseases.

“The recommendations published in this review will help universities harmonise the creation of spinouts. We look forward to working even closer with fellow universities, government, and the investment community to ensure a healthy and sustained flow of investment back into academic research whilst supporting the emerging world-changing businesses of the next 30 years.”

Professor Geraint Rees, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement), said: “We warmly welcome the government’s recommendations on university spinouts and believe that with a greater level of support and investment in transformative spinouts, the upsides could be huge. UK universities have a proven track record in successfully establishing spinouts, as evidenced by the notable example of five UCL spinouts listed on the NASDAQ between 2018 and 2021, collectively securing nearly $800 million of investment. By providing universities with greater support, more world-leading ideas can be translated into the businesses of the future, maximising the UK’s capacity for innovation and helping to solve some of society’s most pressing challenges.”

UCLB provides funding sources, IP support, and initiatives including end-to-end project management and mentorship to academics looking to turn their ideas into technologies with real world impact.

UCLB has been supporting the formation of spinout companies for 30 years. It currently has 75 spinouts in its portfolio, which combined have attracted £2.75bn over the last five years.

Some of UCLB’s successful spinout businesses include:

  • Endomag, uses magnetics to remove the need for radioactivity when staging breast cancer. Their technologies, which include Sentimag and Magtrace, have helped create a step-change in breast cancer care. Endomag has been adopted by more than 1,000 hospitals and used to treat more than 350,000 patients.
  • Satalia, a spinout from the UCL Department of Computer Science, acquired by the global WPP group in 2021, uses AI to solve some of industry’s most complex optimisation challenges. For example, they have helped companies such as Tesco reduce fuel consumption by planning more efficient delivery routes.
  • Senceive is a spinout from the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering that was founded to commercialise innovative wireless sensor networks technology. The company’s FlatMesh remote condition monitoring platform has found widespread application across the geotechnical and railway industries.
  • Bramble Energy is commercialising a revolutionary polymer fuel cell technology, developed by researchers at UCL and Imperial College London. Bramble Energy’s disruptive fuel cell stack, based on printed circuit boards, has both cost and lower fault tolerance advantages compared to conventional fuel cell stacks.

Autolus Therapeutics develops pioneering T-cell therapies which harness immune cells that naturally occur in the body and reprogrammes them to fight cancers. The company has to-date has raised over US$750m in investment funding to progress its portfolio of innovative therapeutic programmes into advanced clinical trials and employs more than 400 staff based across facilities in London and Stevenage.

Notes to editors

CEO of UCLB, Dr Anne Lane is available for interview.

For more information, please contact Mark Greaves, UCL Media Relations. T: +44 (0)7985 208 992, E: m.greaves@ucl.ac.uk

  • UCLB is a wholly owned subsidiary of UCL. Its purpose is to make sure the exceptional ideas and innovations generated by researchers at UCL – have real world impact,bringing pioneering technologies from the laboratory to market.
  • UCL is second in the UK for attracting external investment in spinouts and UCLB celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
  • At present UCL has 72 active spinouts. The 72 spinouts alone have attracted £2.75bn over a five-year period.
  • Between 2018 and 2021, five life sciences companies originating from UCL research (Meira, Orchard, Achilles, Autolus and Freeline) were listed on NASDAQ and collectively raised approximately $800m.


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Photo © Autolus