The Policy Evidence Unit for University Commercialisation and Innovation expands
It’s a busy time for the Policy Evidence Unit for University Commercialisation and Innovation (UCI) at the IfM. Since early October, the team has doubled in size from three to six members – with a further team member joining in January – and is now ready to take on larger projects. Their goal is to strengthen the ability of academia to drive innovation and economic growth.
Building on a platform developed with Dr Eoin O’Sullivan while at the IfM’s Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (CSTI), UCI was established in 2020 with funding from the Research England Development Fund to support a three-person team. Led by Tomas Coates Ulrichsen with Zoi Roupakia and Len Kelleher in Research Associate roles, UCI set out to help government departments, funding agencies, and university leaders support the transfer of academic research into commercially viable and innovative applications generating economic and societal impacts. That remains UCI’s mission, and since its inception, Tomas, Zoi, and Len have studied the impact of COVID-19 on universities and their innovation missions, the role of universities in innovation systems, improving university data on spinouts, and more.
"I set up UCI with a mission to improve the data, evidence and tools available to decision-makers in government, funding agencies and universities working to strengthen the ability of universities to drive innovation through their commercialisation and wider knowledge exchange activities. With this issue becoming increasingly important in the 2010s, I was finding this community struggling to source expert help and practical insights to make effective decisions about where and how to invest," says Tomas.
"Diving into the reasons for this, we found a critical lack of capacity in the UK of people with deep domain knowledge and analytical expertise able to leverage the latest academic thinking and learnings from practice to develop practical solutions to the more knotty challenges facing decision-makers in this complex area of innovation policy. Looking to the future, the need for such capacity will only continue to grow, and we are incredibly excited to be playing a major role in leading its long-term development."
On the back of several successful projects, UCI is now taking on more work, requiring a bigger team. Perhaps most exciting is their partnership with UKRI Research England to build a new national capability to improve evidence and insights on how universities contribute to the economy and society, with Tomas acting as National Adviser to Research England to support the process.
Through their work, Tomas and the team will help to lay important foundations for this new capability, with their initial work hoping to strengthen the university spinout ecosystems, support UK industrial competitiveness through research and innovation, build a better metrics system for measuring and demonstrating progress in knowledge exchange, among many other things. To help realise these ambitions, Tomas, Zoi, and Len are joined by Valeria Ramirez, Joscelyn Miller, and Frieder Mitsch, with a Programme Coordinator joining in January. The new team members look forward to this new chapter in their careers:
"In this rapidly changing world defined by evolving technologies, environmental challenges and shifting societal dynamics, universities play a key role, but unless research innovations are delivered promptly and through the right channels, their impact will remain limited. At UCI, I will be helping the team to improve strategic performance measurement frameworks for these knowledge exchange activities, encouraging purposeful research with socio-economic impact, and nurturing trust between stakeholders by placing people at the heart of metrics," said Valeria Ramirez, who joins the team as a Research Associate with more than 15 years of experience in consulting, research and teaching.
Joscelyn Miller is an economist and joins the team as its Policy & Impact Lead, having worked as a government and private sector consultant. She looks forward to what lies ahead: "It’s fantastic to join the UCI team as we embark on new programmes of work, including the development of a national capability for knowledge exchange data, metrics, and evidence. With our team growing, I look forward to contributing to the important evidence base established by Zoi, Len and Tomas, and overseeing the unit’s expansion, to ensure its long-term sustainability."
Last, but not least, Frieder Mitsch joins the team as a Research Associate and can draw on international innovation research experience, as well as work with the European Commission: "I’m enthusiastic about my involvement in research aimed at enhancing comprehension of how universities foster entrepreneurial environments and support the development of new ventures and spinouts. My primary focus is on the creation of a national university spinout registry, which will provide crucial data and metrics for assessing the vitality of spinout ecosystems and their contribution to the economy."
Click here for more information about the Policy Evidence Unit for University Commercialisation and Innovation.