As part of our wider activity to raise the profile of what is going on within defence research, Ploughshare wants to also highlight a particular area of expertise without which a good few of our inventors would not see their inventions come to life – Licensees.

A slightly different relationship with Ploughshare and inventors at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) than spinning out, licensees allow inventors to have their technology and ideas see the light of day in the market, but allows them to carry on as they would do normally within AWE. There is an option for everyone, as not everyone wants to be the founder of their own business.

One such licensee is JCS Nuclear Solutions. Working with Ploughshare for many years, JCS Nuclear Solutions knows the ins and outs of invention, testing, and how to get things to market and what applications can be used and created for particular technologies. We’re going to delve a little bit more into them here, after having had a chat with Oliver Caunt, the Managing Director.

So, it’s pretty unique the space you’re in, and the relationship with MOD and the UK Government is quite a special one. Can you give us a bit of information about how it came along?

Of course, our company has enjoyed a great working relationship with AWE since we started in 1975 – AWE was our first customer!

We started working with Ploughshare in 2013, specifically because the folks at AWE wanted to evaluate potential partners and commercialise the radiation monitoring technology they had developed. In particular, it had wider applications well beyond what was needed at AWE itself and we decided to licence the technology and take it to market. It’s gone through a few iterations, but the resulting GMS595 product is quite something really.

At JCS, we really look to be as cutting edge as possible, as niche as possible; we don’t see much benefit in trying to compete on like for like market share things. So this development of software that came out of AWE was really something we saw a huge amount of value in – anywhere where there is a requirement to measure radiation – decommissioning power plants, building them, hospitals, universities, radiology, waste clearance – the list goes on, but there is a lot!

The technology itself, how do you fit in?

We designed and provide the detector itself, as well as the instrument housing design, and we take care of the manufacture, the sales, and the support of the GMS595 instrument. But it’s all collaborative. We work really closely with our partners at AWE in everything, from the design itself, to engaging with other interested parties, as well as test and validation – super important – in different and complex radiation dose environments.

What’s really great is that the scientists at AWE aren’t all locked away in a room – they’re really hands-on and are constantly testing and validating themselves to help improve the technology, and that is invaluable really. They also see the potential in it, are constantly looking for feedback, and are constantly looking to improve it and enhance its use on-site.

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So, as a business you saw that potential, and were able to help bring that particular innovation to market?

Absolutely. As a licensee, we see our specific role as being an integrator – we take the technology and find where it fits best in the market. Our business at its heart is about providing cutting edge nuclear radiation sensing and shielding solutions – and the markets that need them are pretty wide-ranging. We know the market, we’ve been in it for a while now, and we know that we also have the capability to design the hardware that can take this software innovation, and make it as useful to the market as possible. There is a demand for it, and we know how to go forward with it.

Because we’ve worked with Ploughshare and AWE for a while now, we also know that we can push the applications of the technology into those new areas, beyond what it was previously designed for. That now benefits both AWE, and JCS Nuclear Solutions – it’s a great relationship.

How has Ploughshare helped in getting this relationship going and continuing?

Ploughshare have been a vital link between both Licensor and Licensee. They bring a level of accountability to both parties, as well as compliance. In more recent years we’ve seen Ploughshare become more and more engaged and positive, not that they weren’t before, but we’re looking at through-life support of the contract now including support with entry into new markets/applications/customers, and that points to a real long-view on it all.

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What would you say to an inventor or a potential partner who is thinking about getting their technology licensed?

It’s relatively simple, but it can be complex. The advice though? Find the best partners to work with, develop a strong working relationship, and agree on common objectives. It sounds simple on paper, and at its heart it can be, but communication and a common goal is super important – almost more so than the technology itself.