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Making it easier for all to engage with innovation and enterprise at UCL

ucypcac31 October 2018

Introduction

As a world-leading university, UCL deserves outstanding support for all elements of innovation and enterprise. Our ambition at UCL Innovation & Enterprise is to offer this to all our staff and students.

UCL Innovation and Enterprise. Photos by Kirsten Holst

In the last few months, UCL has seen some outstanding successes in the area of innovation and enterprise. Two of our spinout companies, Autolus Therapeutics and MeiraGTx have launched on the NASDAQ with IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) raising a combined figure of $235m (£184m). A third UCL spinout company, Orchard Therapeutics, has announced its intention to raise $200m (£156m) through an IPO. All these companies focus on advanced therapeutics – gene and cell therapy – delivering great patient benefit.

Academics from at least four areas – Electronic and Electrical Engineering, the Bartlett School of Architecture, Neuroscience and Computer Science – are collaborating through new cohesive networks with world-leading dance companies, such as the English National Ballet, Studio Wayne McGregor and Sadler’s Wells, responding to the dance sector’s desire to innovate.

Four entrepreneurial undergraduates set up a social enterprise around helping farmers in the developing world to dry rice. They went on to win the $1m Hult Prize and meet Bill Clinton, beating stiff competition from 2,500 other social enterprises worldwide. Meanwhile, a variety of research teams from UCL departments including Chemical Engineering and Chemistry are working with companies on battery technology projects funded by the Faraday Battery Institute, including one to shape the UK-based solid state materials supply chain.

All of these successes have been supported by us at Innovation & Enterprise, which exists at UCL to help staff and students develop their ideas and see them taken up to make a difference to the world.

Capabilities enhanced at Innovation & Enterprise

We have recently brought together the capabilities that UCL needs to support the innovation and enterprise agenda, so that they all now sit as one under Innovation & Enterprise. Included are capabilities to fund the development of ideas, support the creation of short courses (formerly UCL Life Learning), help build innovative business partnerships, commercialise technologies (UCL Business PLC), support those undertaking consultancy (UCL Consultants Ltd) and share how to think and grow as an entrepreneur.

Having these skills together, rather than fragmented, will make it easier for you – our staff and students – to engage with the innovation and enterprise agenda. You no longer have to think: ‘Who do I talk to about commercialising an idea, or where do I go to get funding?’ Just contact Innovation & Enterprise, and we’ll support you.

And the timing of us coming together in this way is just right. The government has set a challenge to UK universities to help grow the UK investment in research and development (R&D) to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.  While talking with Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, he emphasised to me that universities partnering with businesses and innovation accelerators is vital if we are to achieve this goal.  The government wants businesses to increase their investment in R&D, and some of this at least will happen in collaboration with universities, with UCL, with you and me.

There is another element of the government’s ambition to consider.  Rebecca Endean, Strategy Director at UKRI (UK Research and Innovation), makes the point that the government target of 2.4% is an ambition, but what really matters is the outcomes this will achieve.  These are about creating a knowledge-based economy, more jobs, better society, better culture, more wellbeing and more resilience[1].

Working to help innovative ideas achieve their full potential

Bringing together the capabilities we have in Innovation & Enterprise puts the university on the front foot in helping achieve these outcomes.  We can see this working already in our support for trade missions involving UCL spinout companies to Japan and Switzerland; in our work at the UCL School of Pharmacy, creating a new short course that shares best practice with the pharmaceutical industry in the Middle East; and in our support for the UCL Department of Experimental Psychology, working with Audible to shape the tone and voice of audio books.

We have awarded £3.2m to 113 projects across all faculties in the last year to develop ideas to application, and seen more than 1,600 students involved in our entrepreneurship programmes. This has resulted in great outcomes of almost 60 startups, 160 employed staff and £6.7m investment raised.

To do this we have a talented team made up of specialists from all walks of life.  Researchers from academia and industry – companies we have worked for include GSK, AstraZeneca, IBM, Virgin, PwC, and others – people from government agencies, the United Nations and EU bodies. We have worked for startups and big corporates, we include entrepreneurs, consultants, executive and non-executive board members (past and present) and auditors.

This team knows what it takes to get new ideas and enterprises off the ground. They work across UCL, listening to anyone and everyone, discussing their ideas, working with them to develop these as innovation opportunities.  It’s our job to make it as easy as we can for UCL people to engage with UCL’s ambition to change the world and to do this through all elements of innovation and enterprise.

This sounds very rosy and positive. It is. We believe passionately in the capability of everyone at UCL to make a difference, and our ability, in Innovation & Enterprise, to support this. But there are some real challenges in front of us.

Preparing for Brexit challenges

Talking with the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) last week, following their most recent Brexit-readiness survey, (I’ve done well to get this far without mentioning the Brexit word!) they set out some of the issues. The lack of clarity for businesses of all sizes and types is leading to reduced investment. Companies are finding it challenging to see opportunities post-Brexit. There are looming skills issues. Managing other risks is causing some companies to stock pile their products, introducing unexpected challenges to the associated supply chains.  And – not driven by Brexit – many research-engaged and research-intensive companies are focusing their university engagement on a limited number of partners.  Being aware of these challenges, and sensitive to the need to support UCL’s staff and students in their engagement with industry and innovation partners, is a part of the business of Innovation & Enterprise.

It is our ambition that we will work to help each and every one of you in some capacity. As universities go, UCL is world-leading at research and pretty good at innovation and enterprise. Yet knowing the huge potential within UCL, there’s so much more that can be achieved.  Whether you have a specific question or you just want to understand more about innovation and enterprise, please come and talk to us. We are here to help.

[1] http://www.foundation.org.uk/Events/AudioPdf.aspx?s=1555

Find out more

Email us at enterprise@ucl.ac.uk

Or visit the UCL Innovation & Enterprise website to find out more.

A pan-UCL view of Health and Life Sciences

rmhzdal18 October 2018

The School of Life and Medical Sciences (SLMS) seeks to tackle the greatest health challenges that face society, including dementia, mental health, genetic disease, obesity, infectious disease, cancer and ageing. This is a prodigious ambition and we don’t do it alone.

Our ambition is to bring together UCL researchers, across all UCL disciplines and Schools, who work on health – and our definition of health is all encompassing! As well as human physical and mental health, this could include animal health and planetary health (‘One Health’).

In order to facilitate these important pan-UCL initiatives on health, in early 2016 we established the UCL Health Strategy Forum to address the need for a pan-UCL perspective across the breadth of our health priorities. Vice Deans (Health or Interdisciplinarity) or Health Champions have been appointed in all UCL Faculties and are members of the Forum. This pan-UCL engagement has highlighted the range of UCL Faculties involved in multi-disciplinary, health-related research and the extent of the levels at which it takes place: through institutes, centres or hubs, consortia, and projects of varying scale and scope.

The Forum plays a key role in supporting the significant advances made by the UCL Domains and UCL Grand Challenges in extending and developing interactions between SLMS and the rest of UCL. Pan-UCL health research is facilitated via the UCL Research Domains of: Personalised Medicine, Populations & Lifelong Health, Neuroscience, Cancer and more recently established Domains on Food Metabolism and Society, and Microbiology. A very successful launch event for the Microbiology research Domain was held in April 2018. Domain activities are co-ordinated via the Office of the Vice Provost (Health) Research Coordination Office, and the Office of the UCL Vice-Provost (Research).

  • The Cancer Domain aims to ensure that the breadth and depth of cancer research is visible to external audiences, and brings together investigators around four themes: Understanding Cancer; Treating Cancer; Technology; and Cancer in Society. It links UCL computer scientists, ethicists, statisticians, clinicians, engineers, physicists, and life scientists as well as NHS Trusts, funders, and industry partners. Their recent ‘Artificial Intelligence in Cancer’ event brought together over 120 researchers.
  • The UCL Personalised Medicine Domain aims to harness the personalised medicine research activity across the university and its partner hospitals, to deliver innovative patient-targeted medicines and therapies. The Domain has established a Precision Medicine accelerator focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Healthcare. The SLMS Translational Research Office (TRO) worked together with venture capitalists, companies and the UCL community notably, BEAMS investigators to develop the AI in Health accelerator.
  • The Populations & Lifelong Health domain co-ordinated UCL’s successful £7m application for membership of Health Data Research UK, as a pan-London collaboration with Imperial, Kings, QMUL, and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The focus is on health informatics and actionable analytics, precision medicine, public health, and clinical trials.
  • The Neuroscience Domain has supported the UCL Mental Health strategy working group which consulted widely across UCL to develop recommendations for our future mental health research direction. It has also helped to facilitate productive connections between the Institute of Education and the Divisions of Psychology and Language Sciences and Psychiatry.

Education also benefits from a pan-UCL approach and UCL offers 28 health-related Masters’ programmes external to SLMS, including a new Master’s degree in Bio-social Anthropology. In addition to the 15 MSc, 7 MA and 5 MRes programmes across BEAMS, SLASH and the IoE, Engineering hosts an EPSRC Doctoral Training Programme in Medical Imaging, MAPS offers a health-related post-graduate certificate, and Laws offer two health-related modules.

We aim to extend our impact by close working with UCL’s NHS partners and other Academic Health Science Centres within London and the Southeast cluster. We are involved in a range of exciting major projects with our national and international partners. These are some of our research initiatives:

  • The Wellcome/EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences (WEISS) accommodates researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, the Division of Surgery & Interventional Science, the Centre for Medical Imaging and the Institute for Healthcare Engineering in state-of-the-art interdisciplinary facilities at Charles Bell House, enabling research at the intersection of engineering and health.
  • Led by UCL Biochemical Engineering, the EPSRC Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub (Vax-Hub) will drive vaccine discovery, development and manufacturing, bringing together 25 partners with industry and policy makers to address key challenges in vaccine manufacturing.
  • The EPSRC IRC in Early-Warning Sensing Systems for Infectious Diseases (i-sense) is a multidisciplinary research consortium which aims to engineer a new generation of disruptive sensing systems to diagnose, monitor and prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as major flu epidemics, MRSA and HIV.
  • The contribution of health economics to decisions concerning the production, distribution and evaluation of health and healthcare is recognised by health services worldwide. The Faculty of Population Health Sciences has brought together and strengthened the health economics community across UCL, including Economics, Statistical Science, IoE Social Science and Engineering.
  • The Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH), a four-year Wellcome Trust funded collaboration between Bartlett School of Architecture and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, will deliver key global research on the systems that connect urban development and health.

UCL has one of the largest and most prestigious groupings of academics in biomedical, life and population health sciences in the world. While we are all familiar with the need to interpret league tables with care, they nonetheless provide a helpful indication that our performance over the last academic year supports this claim. In the QS World University Rankings, UCL ‘Life Sciences and Medicine’ ranked 8th in the world (up from 11th in 2017), moving ahead of Yale, UCSF and UCLA, and 3rd in the UK, sustaining our position ahead of our London peers, Imperial and King’s.

I am convinced that this success is due to our pursuit of UCL 2034’s third principal theme: to address global challenges using our ‘distinctive cross-disciplinary approach’. We have made cross-disciplinarity a priority and we can only get better by working more closely with one another. I am keen that we continue to extend and grow the interactions in health and life sciences across UCL.

Professor David Lomas

Vice Provost (Health)

For further information on how to get involved, please contact the Domain leads, or:

Dr Sinéad Kennedy (Director of Research Co-ordination & Planning, OVPH) for research opportunities in health: sinead.kennedy@ucl.ac.uk;

Dr Jane Kinghorn (Director of the Translational Research Office, OVPH) for translational research: j.kinghorn@ucl.ac.uk;

Dr Nandi Simpson (Acting Head of Partnerships and Projects, OVPH) for the Health Strategy Forum: i.simpson@ucl.ac.uk.

Your chance to shape our research environment

uccg04p6 March 2018

UCL’s researchers are world class, and we need to ensure that they receive world-class support. Since 2011, UCL has had a research strategy that was designed to help the institution develop in such a way as to optimally support our research community, and to help us all to be more than the sum of our parts.

The 2011 strategy (which you can read here) has now been reviewed and refreshed – so I need to draw on your experience, expertise and imagination over the next month to ensure that the draft 2018 UCL Research Strategy gives you the tools and environment to help you fulfil your potential.

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