Three out of three ICURe Successes for Oxford Brookes Health and Life Sciences Researchers

Thursday, 13 February 2020

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Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) is a successful Innovate UK programme, designed to move innovation out of universities into the marketplace, to achieve its greatest impact. The program offers university researchers with commercially promising ideas up to £35k to 'get out of the lab' and travel around the world to validate their ideas in the marketplace. Winning a place in the program, which is open to all UK universities, is highly competitive. Within 8 months, Oxford Brookes University made three applications for research in Health and Life Sciences and all three were successful.

Written by Ed Cole, IP and Commercial Manager in Research and Business Development Office at Oxford Brookes

Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) is a successful Innovate UK programme, designed to move innovation out of universities into the marketplace, to achieve its greatest impact. The program offers university researchers with commercially promising ideas up to £35k to 'get out of the lab' and travel around the world to validate their ideas in the marketplace. Winning a place in the program, which is open to all UK universities, is highly competitive.  Within 8 months, Oxford Brookes University made three applications for research in Health and Life Sciences and all three were successful.

The award is given to research teams made up of an Early Career Researcher (ECR) who act as Entrepreneurial Lead and a Principal Researcher, with the support of a Tech Transfer Officer. For three months, the ECR travels globally and makes contact with up to 100 perspective customers and competitors. Before the ECR can begin that discovery journey, the team spends time in 'bootcamp training' where they learn new skills including how to pitch their ideas and using business canvass to articulate value proposition of their research work. Teams that identify market needs for their ideas are invited to apply for a follow-up grant of up to £300K to create spin-outs. All researchers
get feedback on options for impact creation from a panel of experts that includes potential investors.

In June last year, a team led by Dr David Meredith submitted the first ever application from Oxford Brookes, to market validate an oral drug delivery platform technology aimed at improving oral absorption of a range of peptide and protein based drugs that currently can only be taken by injection. The technology promises to improve the lives of patients that injects these drugs by making the same drugs available in tablets. The team has subsequently won a MRC grant to further development of the technology.

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A research team investigating metastasis of breast cancer, with Professor Dave Carter as Principal Researcher, Manu Carollo (ECR), Dr Ryan Pink  and Professor Susan Brooks. The team discovered a biomarker to detect the spread of epithelial cancers such as breast cancer. Strong market interest was found, with the CEO of a diagnostic company remaking 'there is a huge market for this' and the Chief Medical Officer of a cancer research unit said: 'we have been waiting for this for a long time'

Presentation of the market validation findings was very well received by the ICURe panel and commended the team. The panel recommended that a spin-out be created to commercialise the technology and invited the team to apply for Innovate UK matched funding. The Funding application submitted in February if successful will lead to MetaGuideX being created and spun out of the university.

The final of the trio is the Centre for Movement, Occupational and Rehabilitation Sciences (MOReS) team for research led by Professor Helen Dawes investigating gait patterns as an eHealth tool for disease diagnostics. The Entrepreneurial Lead, Nicholas Beale is travelling around USA, Middle East and parts of Asia. Dr Patrick Esser is the ICURe Principal Researcher. The team is due to present its report in March.

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All three teams were supported by Ed Cole, IP and Commercial Manager in Research and Business Development Office. These ICURe successes, three out of three, are indicative of the high quality of research coming out of Oxford Brookes, and of the type capable of making meaning impact in society. An independent evaluation of the ICURe programme was carried out by Ipsos Mori. As well as finding evidence of improved commercial awareness and skills amongst the participants,  it also found that participation in ICURe increased the likelihood that teams pursued a spin-out or a licensing deal from 15% to 79%.

To date 255 ICURe teams have been trained, producing 62 (24%) spinouts.  The next call ICURe call for application will open in March.

Researchers interested to find our more should contact Ed Cole at 07557 342 718, e.cole@brookes.ac.uk.