Commercialise your research

Inventions, ideas, know-how and licensing

Helping academics develop their ideas and inventions into opportunities that are attractive to business and investors is at the heart of Cambridge Enterprise and its Technology Transfer teams.

Our teams’ mission is to commercialise University knowledge and technology by working with academics, commercial partners, investors, the NHS and research funders to bring potentially big ideas to market, including by assisting with the formation of new companies and developing licensing opportunities.

We work with University colleagues through the entire commercialisation process, and often with those whose ideas are still in the very earliest stages of development.

Understanding your options

Cambridge Enterprise works to develop successful opportunities by helping academics apply for translational funding opportunities, undertaking market analysis, bringing together experts to scope and develop new technologies, finding development partners and investors, and negotiating and managing commercial deals through licensing IPR, including patents, know-how, data and copyright.

Whatever route your idea takes, the first thing you need to do is contact us to talk through the options. Your idea can be at any stage of development and in any form, such as:

  • a research topic that is relevant to industry needs
  • software
  • a design (for a circuit or object)
  • the creation of reagents or questionnaires
  • a new methodology
  • an algorithm
  • Patentable technologies

Disclosing your idea

Whether your idea is in its infancy or well-defined, we encourage you to fill out a disclosure form.

  • Cambridge Enterprise will handle your idea with strict confidence (please note that we will disclose the idea to your head of department if we add it to our portfolio).
  • We’re happy to talk, even if your idea is not fully formed – we can help you decide how to move forward.
  • If you choose to develop your idea independently of Cambridge Enterprise, we will work with you to give you the necessary rights from the University.

The process

  1. Once you’ve provided us with a completed disclosure form, we’ll meet with you to discuss your ideas and any commercial applications.
  2. We’ll review the competitive landscape – assessing the published papers and (if appropriate) patent applications that may be similar.
  3. We may contact some companies to establish whether your idea solves a relevant problem.
  4. Sometimes at this stage we may have a more detailed conversation with a company, which may require confidentiality agreements be put in place.
  5. These conversations may point to a need for more translational research before we engage with industry; we can help you find funding for that purpose.
  6. Occasionally we may decide that Cambridge Enterprise is not the best route for commercialisation in which case we would discuss alternative options with you.
  7. In cases where patent protection is appropriate, we’ll work with you and a patent agent to file a patent application – we will manage the patent prosecution but we will need your input at various stages.
  8. If no licensee has been identified, we’ll market your idea and try to find a good match. This could be through an existing company or we might help you start one of your own.
  9. Cambridge Enterprise will take assignment of any registerable rights (patent, trademark, registered designs) and a licence to any non-registerable rights (know-how, copyright, unregistered designs, database rights) so that we can act on your behalf and on behalf of the University in commercialisation of an idea.
  10. We negotiate with the licensee to agree terms for the commercialisation of your idea in return for a revenue share or other appropriate consideration.
  11. Revenue received by Cambridge Enterprise will be shared with you, your department and the University according to the University’s IP policy (for registerable rights).


Why license your work?

A licence is a legal agreement in which the owner of intellectual property grants specific rights to another party, to use, manufacture or sell the technology.

Our team finds potential commercialisation partners through extensive industry contacts, specialist databases, web searches and targeted marketing. You may already know of companies that may be interested in using your technology.

So why should you license your work?

  • A licence gives specific rights to the licensee in exchange for a fair return to the academics and University.
  • Cambridge Enterprise negotiates with licensees on a case-by-case basis, with the aim of supporting the business opportunity while getting a fair return for the inventors and the University.
  • University research is often a long way from what is needed in a commercial product and so agreeing on a value for the idea upfront is in practice impossible. An ongoing relationship through a licence allows both parties to share appropriately in any success.
  • Licences can be exclusive (granted just to one partner) or non-exclusive (granted to multiple partners), and limited to specific fields or territories, depending on what is best for that opportunity.
  • Cambridge Enterprise requires licensees to remain committed to the commercial development of the idea or to return their licence, preventing University research from being used simply to block the licensee’s competitors.

What can be licensed?

The most common types of IP rights are confidential information, copyright, patents, trademarks and design rights.

  • Copyright – the expression of ideas (e.g. software)
  • Database rights – collections of data (e.g. customer details)
  • Design rights – designs (e.g. the shape and appearance of a bottle or jar)
  • Knowledge – know-how (e.g. recipes can be a trade secret)
  • Research reagents and materials – (e.g. model organisms, proteins, DNA/RNA, etc)
  • Patents – how something works (e.g. the method of production)
  • Trademarks – the designation of origin, reputation of goods and services (e.g. logo)


Image: University spin-out Sphere Fluidics’ fusion biochip, which was licensed with the help of Cambridge Enterprise’s Technology Transfer teams.