Many researchers have been put-off licensing or think it isn’t for them, but if you’re sitting on copyrighted materials such as software, data sets, publications, biological materials, healthcare tools and more, Express Licensing could be a great way to generate impact and even income.
Impact can take many forms, as this site can attest to, but because of historical constraints, certain types of activity have been given preference over others.
Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs, sometimes also referred to as Enterprise, innovation or commercial offices/departments) have taken on the role of commercialisation for universities. They facilitate the exchange of knowledge from the university to outside parties and generating income where possible, with most of it going back to IP owners (typically the institution, academics or both). Because of limited resources, the focus has been on larger, usually exclusive, licensing deals that a select group of technologies qualify for. If licensing isn’t right, spinning-out the IP into a standalone business is another possible route. However, in many cases the IP is relatively low-value and more suitable for non-exclusive licensing. These tools and technologies are often seen as a lower priority within TTOs, but I think this misses a huge opportunity to maximise the impact of research.
Hands-up if this scenario seems familiar. You work for years on your research. In that time you are creating your own tools and materials to aide that research, whether that’s software, biological materials, surveys, best-practice guides etc. You publish the paper and these things just sit on your hard-drive. After publishing, you may also be contacted by others to acquire these materials. At this point you have a dilemma. You can choose one of the following:
Contact your TTO about formally licensing the material
Slap an open source or creative commons licence on it and stick it on Github or your website etc.
Send it to them without any agreement
Of course, you were going to say "number 1" weren’t you?... What?... No? …Why?... Because you know that you probably face a long, drawn-out process that will be painful for you and the perspective ‘customer’. In fact – you know that you’ll be doing it every time someone else wants to acquire it too. And for what? £200 a time? No thanks. It just isn’t worth the effort.
So in order to do this right we need to rethink how we do things. We want the following:
A way to manage these things passively. i.e. that they can be transacted with little or no effort on anyone’s part
A place to represent the tool or technology (or product) so that it can be marketed to relevant parties (or it can at least be found on Google)
An ability to get it setup quickly, through the use of template agreements and processes
A way to take money, if required, ideally without the need to be drawing up invoices by hand
A way for researchers to be involved in the licensing process – whether that is to have a veto over an order or to receive updates on who is licensing your tools.
A way to automate the process so that no one has to chase up anyone else in the system
To draw down reports, that can be used in impact reporting
We call this type of thing ‘express licensing’ and we’ve been developing both the practice and tools to help solve some of these issues over the past six years at UCL Business. At the core of this project has been the development of a tool named E-lucid. E-lucid simplifies and automates the licensing process from end-to-end. It handles the merchandising, approvals workflow, record keeping, reporting and payment processing, all in one place.
The great thing about express licensing is that it can create a long-tail opportunity. This means that because it can be made available in perpetuity with little or no cost, it can passively be creating value, long-after you have moved on to other things.
This year we will see the release of the next generation of E-lucid with new and improved features focused on solving more of the issues that academics and universities face in getting their intellectual property out into the world.
One of these new features is the ability to create multiple storefronts from the one account. This means that a TTO can still be handing the legal and financial aspects but individual academics, research groups, departments and enterprise groups can be creating targeted, curated sites that address particular target groups or markets. For example a site focused on Primary Level teaching resources or a selection of clinical outcome assessment measures.
So, if you are sitting on copyrighted materials like software, images, video, publications etc. then speak to us to see how we might be able to help. We can help liaise with your technology transfer office if required or help you scope out the full size of your opportunity if you need to make a case internally for a tool like E-lucid. E-lucid is fully hosted and compared with developing your own platform provides great value. Because we offer predictable pricing it can also easily be added to budgets when applying for funding.
David Rogerson is the Product Owner of E-lucid and manages the University College London's Business express licensing portal XIP. Fast Track Impact does not have a commercial relationship with E-Lucid - we just genuinely think this is a great idea that others should know about.