Over the last year, Linstock has worked with the specialist Intellectual Property (IP) legal firm Anderson Law. The aim of our work was threefold: to create new insights for Anderson Law to share with current and prospective clients; to develop a body of new evidence to influence policymakers; and to establish Anderson Law as an authoritative voice in the IP sector.
We developed a thought leadership platform, underpinned by new research, to meet these objectives.
Identifying a theme
The first step was to choose the right issue. IP is a broad sector, so to narrow down the options we listened to the views of senior figures at Anderson Law about the issues on which they have expertise and that are relevant to their clients. During this process, the commercialisation of university research emerged as a key topic to consider.
Combining these conversations with a literature and external context review, one specific theme stood out. Could we explore the success of universities in turning their intellectual property, in the form of academic research, into viable businesses, known in the sector as ‘spinouts’?
This theme ticked a number of boxes. Understanding university spinouts played strongly to Anderson Law’s IP expertise. At the same time, it became evident that nobody had previously tracked levels of funding into, and the subsequent success of, university spinouts. There was clear white space. In addition, the issue was timely. The UK’s seven research councils and Research England were due to merge into one body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), on 1st April 2018.
Both private and public sources fund the UK spinout ecosystem. Tracking these flows is complex. We undertook extensive desk research, using data from a variety of different sources, to establish the amounts of money going into university spinouts and how those spinouts subsequently fared.
Once we had these results, we conducted in-depth interviews with a range of experts to add insights to our findings. Interviewees included individuals working at research councils, at university technology transfer offices and in spinouts themselves. Critically, many of these individuals were people Anderson Law already had a relationship with. Collaborating with these existing contacts at this stage of the process helped build a powerful body of advocates for the launch of our final report.
Sharing the findings
We combined the quantitative data analysis and qualitative research insights in a report containing recommendations for UKRI, the UK Government and universities. The report was launched on 30th March 2018, ahead of the official formation of UKRI. The report content also formed the basis of material for LinkedIn and Twitter, a website blog, a mail out to Anderson Law clients and prospects, and a press release for national and trade media.
The launch generated quality media coverage, notably in Forbes. The report’s findings also received public backing in local media from Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of Cambridge University, as well as receiving social media support from several investment funds that invest in spinouts or research commercialisation.
The report was also shared with Anderson Law’s network of stakeholders, including the Universities Minister Sam Gyimah, who is also the Minister responsible for Intellectual Property, and PraxisAuril, a professional association for Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation practitioners and the research Catapult centres. This enabled Anderson Law to have direct conversations with policymakers and other influencers in this area.
Not only did the research findings represent the first real in-depth look at the funding of university spinouts, they also provided Anderson Law with a platform to speak out with firm recommendations for improving the system-establishing them as an authoritative voice on an important issue.
Since the report’s launch, Anderson Law has continued to receive positive feedback on the findings and interest in their broader IP expertise from current and prospective clients.
For more information about Linstock’s approach to thought leadership, download our thought leadership white paper or get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.