Spin out companies

Continuing on the theme of Intellectual Property, we had another interesting presentation from Gavin Smith from Research & Enterprise Services.

Lancaster University spin out companies

Attendees learned about some examples of spin out companies that are associated with Lancaster University, such as Relative Insight Ltd which conducts semantic analysis for the marketing industry, based on a huge database of language generated from PhD research.

Gavin also explained the different roles, requirements and risks associated with Limited Liability Companies and Sole Traders.

Limited Liability Company

  • liability to the shareholders
  • accounts are published
  • risk to the company, not the individual
  • roles and requirements stipulated by Companies House

Sole trader

  • liability to individual
  • accounts are private
  • more personal risk


One benefit of forming a spin out company is that there are opportunities to apply for Research & Development funding that is not open to the University as a public body, such as from InnovateUK.

Typically, Lancaster University will invest 19% of the shares in a spin out company (risking £19), but will not help to run the company. The University does provide some ‘incubator space’ in InfoLab21 and LEC, with plans for the cTAP building and Health Innovation Campus likely to bring more.

What financial support is there regionally for start-up and spin out companies? There isn’t much available in English regions, or from Lancashire County Council. You may be interested to read more about finance and funding for businesses in Lancashire or Enterprise Ventures based in the north of England.

For more information about forming a spin out company, contact Gavin Smith directly. If you are interested in forming industry partnerships and licensing IP, rather than forming your own company, come along to the next session!

How do I engage with business, and get industry partnerships?

Wednesday 27th April, 12.00, Bowland North SR 4
A look at how to gain more meaningful and productive relationships with external partners and how be proactive in forming successful collaborative research partnerships.
Nick King/Colin McLaughlin, Business Partnerships Team, Faculty of Science and Technology



Filing a patent and commercialising your research

Many thanks to Gavin Smith, Intellectual Property Development Manager from Research & Enterprise Services, who delivered a clear and informative session about filing patents, and how the University can support researchers wishing to apply for, and license patents based on their research.

Patents are formal (i.e. registered) intangible assets which give the holder a short term monopoly.

Why patent?

  • A validation that research is “novel” and “inventive”
  • A door-opener to external organisations
  • May return impact case studies
  • May return industrial income
  • May return licensing income

The complete slides are available here, courtesy of the presenter: 20160308_ResearchBites_Patents_GJSmith

Lancaster University researchers have been granted many patents. You can browse a selection on the Research & Enterprise webpage.

A granted patent confirms that the research covered is world-leading, industrially applicable, and totally novel and inventive.


If I give a talk (e.g. at a conference or in the department) and reveal an invention, perhaps in the abstract, would this be considered ‘prior art’? Yes it could, so be careful about how much you reveal, and crucially when you reveal it.

Does the Research & Enterprise Office provide template disclosures? Gavin will work with you to compose the disclosure, so please seek advice early on when considering patents.

Do patents just reward novelty? No, patents also need to demonstrate an ‘inventive step’, not just novelty. They also need to be eligible, and capable of industrial application.

Intellectual Property Office

The UK Intellectual Property Office gives comprehensive advice on patents.

Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest, “Otto’s Patent,” accessed 16 Mar 2016,