High IP fees ‘putting off’ new businesses

Hermann Hauser has criticised Cambridge University for putting off would-be entrepreneurs because it wants to charge too much for the intellectual property rights on research.

Speaking to a packed auditorium at Robinson College, the technology guru said: “Cambridge Enterprise (the company set up by the university to commercialise research) is a great success, but now it is beginning to charge too much for IP, and they are preventing companies from starting.”

He went on to suggest that the university should either give IP away free or for a very small sum or equity stake.

Expanding on the idea, he continued: “Why not give shares to the university anyway, whether or not the IP comes from there?

“There are 1,400 companies in the tech sector around here and only 70 have come from the university as spin outs, but all the high tech companies in Cambridge employ Cambridge alumni.

“It would be philanthropic to give shares to the university.”

He added that this could ultimately provide the university with a lot more money than through charging for IP.

Dr Richard Jennings, interim chief executive of Cambridge Enterprise, said: “We endeavour to take an intelligent approach to commercialisation of intellectual property to ensure that Cambridge innovations have the greatest impact on society.

“We give it away where it makes sense to do so, we patent it where it makes sense to do so, and we aim to achieve a reasonable and appropriate financial return to our inventors and the university.

“Any way that we can reduce the barriers to making technology transfer happen is naturally a positive thing, but we cannot be a drain on the university’s resources or ignore our obligations to our many sponsors and our inventors.

“We welcome debate on how we can do our job better.”

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