Innovation wants outside investment; we’ve said it before.


Published 2nd May 23

By Mark Gostock, VP Commercialisation – Health and Wellbeing, Ploughshare

For spin-outs and innovation, it’s been a good couple of weeks – we’ve seen a rocket launch, DASA has been doing the rounds, and we’ve seen the importance of them further ratified by the publication of the University Spin-out Investment Terms Guide, or the USIT Guide.

The good of this new guide is that it is putting forward standardised ways to set up the spin-out process – fewer surprises down the line means that there will be happier founders, happier investors, and a happier all-around ecosystem.

However, this message is one that is repeated consistently: standardisation of terms, transparency, and impact. This isn’t a bad thing, and it shouldn’t be seen as such. If a Guide that is more focused on one area is setting out best practice is felt needed that is fairly in line with other available documents – such as Ploughshare’s own Playbook, for example – then there is another question to ask. That question is: why are these documents appearing in the first place, in multiple iterations, by multiple groups?

It’s a shame that we – all these differing groups from varied areas within the innovation ecosystem – feel the need to keep making the same type of noise. It’s simply putting in more effort to constantly bang the drum for the open and clear involvement of external investors in innovation, as the first drumbeat hasn’t been fully acknowledged in the first place. But, if that effort is needed to push the message of innovation being there to not only positively impact the world, but also that innovation wants investment – then we have no choice but to continue.

The simple fact is that innovation is everywhere. Especially in our own government departments and universities. They’re hotbeds for problem solving, and for making a positive impact on the world. But these innovators, these business-leaders of the future, are being stymied by both access to privately held capital, and by access to business expertise from the outside world to help create and deliver value for not only their backers, but for the world at large. Openness from the outset such as described in this guide and our Playbook is critical here.

There is a deep, deep need for private investment to see that they have a very real opportunity to be there at the beginning of the next coming of microwave technology, or GPS technology, or the next discovery of penicillin. This increased interest will in turn motivate those in research to share it with the world in a hugely impactful way – as they will have belief behind them, which will drive them further forwards. Being open will only help this to develop further.

Hopefully this iteration of a spin-out guide shows investors, researchers, and business leaders the way forward – where investment is long-term focused, and paves the way for the longer future, rather than being focused on purely hypergrowth and profit.