Victoria University of Wellington has launched a new initiative that makes it easier to commercialise research. Known as Easy Access IP, the programme is a complement to Viclink, the university’s commercialisation office. In short, the programme offers simple, free licences for technologies.
Easy Access IP is an international collective of universities and research institutions who give discoveries and inventions to companies and individuals at no cost, with the aim of helping turn more research into tangible products or services that can help the wider community.
Viclink open innovations manager Bianca Grizhar believes the Easy Access IP agreements will make it easier for local companies to work with Victoria. “The programme removes many barriers and complex legal negotiations, as it allows Intellectual Property (IP) to be licensed with a simple, one-page, royalty-free licence agreement,” she says. “The licensees can then develop products and services as they please.”
The move to Easy Access IP is in line with an overall shift towards more openness about research, Grizhar says, and the need to commericialise more quickly than ever before due to an ever-increasing speed of innovation. "You need to be quick fast now," she says. [But] we still have some things we need to be secretive about to protect them, so researchers can continue their work."
Ropata Medical Centre is one example of how Easy Access IP works. One of Wellington’s biggest medical centres – with nearly 20,000 patients per month – the facility needed a more efficient way to manage patient check-ins. Practice manager Adrian Tucker says he knew of an automated patient check-in system developed for Victoria’s Student Health Centre, and that had worked successfully in a Gisborne practice. “I contacted Viclink to see if we could purchase or licence the system,” he explains. “To be honest, I had my doubts, and thought that it might be too expensive or difficult. In fact, the opposite was true. I met with Bianca, who talked to me about the Easy Access IP programme. I wrote a statement of intent outlining how we planned to use the software, and Bianca prepared the contract. We had the software within a week.”
Grizhar claims Easy Access IP is innovative because it represents the “internationalisation” of commercialisation, with multiple organisations and universities from around the world working together. “The programme will work alongside our traditional research translation, and allow us to join a prestigious international network,” she says. “We have seen how it can work overseas and we are very excited about the potential new opportunities and relationships. We also encourage licensees to work directly with the researchers who invented the IP to utilise their expertise. This means faster product development times.”
And there’s another advantage, too, she says. “It’s also a big benefit for Victoria’s researchers, who will have more opportunities to showcase their research and create partnerships with industry – which could lead to more research funding and scholarships for students.”
It can also be explained very simply, Grizhar says. "It's a great way to get more innovation from the university out into the real world," she explains. "The process [of commercialisation] can be quite hard, especially for small companies to engage with the university."
Viclink managing director Geoff Todd says he believes Easy Access IP focuses on technologies that will benefit society. “Viclink has a great record of developing technology that benefits the local economy, with notable spin-out successes like AuramerBio, Avalia Immunotherapies, Boutiq and Magritek,” he explains. “It’s important to ensure Victoria’s knowledge resource remains open and accessible, as it has the chance to improve our quality of life.”
Other universities and institutions using Easy Access IP include Macquarie University, the University of New South Wales and La Trobe University in Australia, the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, Linköping University in Sweden, and King’s College London, the University of Bristol, University of Exeter, University of Sussex, University of Glasgow, Durham University, and Staffordshire University in the UK, among others.
Grizhar certainly doesn't lack enthusiasm about Victoria joining them in a push to make the commercialisation process easier. "We're really excited to join these universities."