Intellectual Property

Turning research projects into Intellectual Property

By protecting innovative or novel ideas as intellectual property (IP), medical researchers increase the chances of their work ultimately making a difference to the lives of patients.

Developing and testing a new drug, treatment, device or diagnostic method is expensive. Academic institutions and medical charities often lack the necessary funds to bring these innovations to the market. Creating an IP provides an opportunity to accelerate the development process by attracting additional funding for a research project from outside investors.

Here are a few examples of research IP in which we have invested:

  • A team from Southampton University has turned its research into the use of a nanoclay in an injectable gel form that can carry biologic drugs capable of augmenting bone tissue regeneration into an IP, Renovite®.  For more information, follow this link.
  • Novara Therapeutics has been created to commercialise the world’s first patented bio-specific solution for the targeted diagnosis and treatment of bone microfractures, building on over a decade of research and development work undertaken by the University of Brighton, Newcastle University and the University of Milan. For more information, follow this link.

ORUK position on IP

We believe it essential that charities are accountable for their actions and especially their funding. We need to demonstrate to our supporters and partners the difference we are making through the money we invest in research and strategic partnerships with academic institutions and entrepreneurs. This can often involve protecting research discoveries and taking advantage of IP, which stops others from copying their designs or processes without consent or payment.

In 1997, the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), developed guidance on IP terms and conditions to help its members navigate the complex IP landscape. Twenty years later, in 2017, they consulted research funders and stakeholders to ensure the guidance better reflects practices in this area. New guidance was subsequently published in September 2018 providing an updated framework for charities developing their own policies and processes to help them protect their right to IP and to income generated, so that they can use it to fund more vital research.

We needed to keep up with the shifting sands of change in today’s research landscape to have the most impact we can for patient benefit. The AMRC guidance was the result of two years of extensive advice from those with expertise in the field, a wide public consultation and recognition of current best practice. In March 2019, the Board of Trustees of ORUK decided to fully adopt the recommendations and updated its Standard Research Agreement for the Universities and Trusts applying for funding from ORUK.

Any revenue generated from our investments in IP will be reinvested in supporting our charitable activities and increasing our overall impact.

Please contact the Technology Transfer Office (TTO) at your University to help with the IP registration process. Further information on how you can register your research project as an IP can be found on the government’s Intellectual Property Office website.

Applying for ORUK funding

We do not sign research contracts with individuals. You must share the ORUK Standard Research Agreement with your respective University /Trust’s Research Contracts Department and/or Technology Transfer Office and confirm to us that they agree in principle with our terms and conditions in advance of the submission of your full proposal. Contracts are signed once the awards are approved by the Board of Trustees. We reserve the right to reject applications that do not adhere to the terms of our contract.

Function of the Technology Transfer Offices

Technology Transfer Offices at UK research institutions play a valuable role in protecting and commercialising IP developed at universities for social and economic benefit around the world. UK universities are almost all charitable bodies, required to comply with charity law. Their charitable objectives are research, teaching and scholarship and the application of new knowledge arising from these activities. Everything that universities do must be directly in line with these objectives. This applies to their business transactions, including the commercial development of their research outputs. Each university in the UK is independent and develops its own strategic goals, emphases, brand and approach to intellectual property management and the commercial development of research outputs.

Ownership and management of IP

ORUK would not want to own the IP.  Most IP rights belong to the employer, which in most cases is not the charity but a research institution. Regardless of ownership, ORUK has the right to be notified before IP is exploited or disposed of. If, for any reason, the institution decides not to exploit IP arising from charity research, then ORUK retains the right to protect and exploit that IP if it so wishes.

Revenue share with multiple funders

Most research that leads to exploitable IP will have been funded by more than one funder. In these cases, it is the responsibility of the research institution to identify the inventive contribution of the inventors and the proportionate funding contributions of the funders.

Rewarding the inventors

It is the responsibility of the research institution to reward inventors of IP from its revenue share according to its own policies and practice. Where rights to take equity are obtained this should be shared between the funder and the institution on a 50:50 basis. The research institution and its technology transfer company should agree how to share between themselves any fees or shares of net income and/or equity due to either or both of them.

Supporting documents

AMRC guidance on IP terms and conditions (Download)

ORUK position statement on intellectual property (Download)

ORUK Standard Research Agreement (Download)

UK University Technology Transfer: behind the headlines (Download)

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