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22 July, 2022 - 09:13 By Tony Quested

University alliance handed £4m boost to develop business-academia eosystem

International research commercialisation collaboration TenU, involving the University of Cambridge, has received a £4 million boost for its programmes over the next five years. 

The funding includes a £2.5 million grant from Research England, endorsed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The Research England grant will help fund the collection of international evidence on best practice in ecosystem building, such as how to create resilient networks and partner with investors, developers and local communities to support economic growth through university innovation. 

Identifying and developing the next generation of innovation leaders is another key TenU priority, including the continuation of its successful TenU Future Leaders Programme – an international platform for training and exchange.

TenU members are the research commercialisation offices of 10 top universities – Cambridge (UK), Columbia (USA), Edinburgh (UK), Imperial College London (UK), Leuven (Belgium), Manchester (UK), MIT (USA), Oxford (UK), Stanford (USA) and University College London (UK).

One of the most high-profile examples of research commercialisation activity by a TenU member is Oxford University's partnership with Cambridge-based Big biotech AstraZeneca that saw a Covid-19 vaccine developed and rolled out in less than 12 months. 

It has had the greatest global reach of any of the Covid vaccines – penetrating more than 180 countries – and has accounted for more than a quarter of the billions of Covid jabs administered around the world.

TenU members are also involved in ambitious projects around the UK to accelerate the growth of university spin-outs and other science and technology companies through the creation of innovation districts – with the potential to provide tens of thousands of new jobs over the next few years. 

The universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and Imperial College London are among those involved in the high-tech hubs designed to provide the specialist infrastructure needed to power the growth of the knowledge economy.

David Sweeney, executive chair of Research England, said: “I am pleased to provide Research England funding to support TenU's ambitious international collaboration which is already leveraging its combined knowledge of research commercialisation to inform UK and wider policy and practice.

“We look forward to working further with TenU in the future, building on its insights on international best practice in university intellectual property management, as well as sharing experiences across continents on building ecosystems and developing talent.”

Research from TenU member universities has led to world-changing innovations ranging from rapid whole genome sequencing (Cambridge) and programmed T-cell therapies (University College London) to fibre optics (Imperial) and the page rank algorithm technology that became the basis for Google (Stanford).

Dr Ananay Aguilar, head of TenU, said: “Research England's generous funding recognises the impact TenU has already had on the university technology transfer sector through its events, training programme and close work with government.

“It will allow TenU to intensify this work and deepen relationships with investors and other partners to accelerate innovation. I look forward to engaging further with the sector and using TenU's combined knowledge and experience so that together we can boost the economic and societal impact of research.”

TenU member Lesley Millar-Nicholson, director of the MIT Technology Licensing Office, added: "I am thrilled that the work of TenU has been recognised and funded for a further five years through this generous and important grant by Research England. 

“The funding will enable TenU to further expand its initiatives, such as its advocacy work, its training programme and the sharing of effective practices across borders and cultures. Crucially, it will support TenU's mission to increase the economic and societal impact of research.”

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