Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) provide fertile ground for the creation of social innovations, and as a result, new social enterprises. To this end, experts from University College London (UCL) and the University of Manchester have collaborated with UnLtd to produce a comprehensive guide aimed at supporting the creation of sustainable solutions with University Intellectual Property (IP). We suggest that it is time to challenge the idea of university IP as owned by a private entity aiming only to maximise short-term financial profit; rather, we see university IP as able to create long-term financially sustainable solutions to neglected social and environmental concerns.
Our position is that the challenges in creating social enterprise with university IP can be overcome through understanding the value of social enterprise within the European HEI context, and ulitlising unique methods specifically aimed at developing university IP. These include: completing a one page social enterprise business planning checklist for university IP; redefining the relationship between the academic and the technology transfer office through building capacity for social enterprise; creating and capturing social value through identifying the ‘best case scenario’ for commercialising university IP; and clearly articulating impact measures. These tools have been designed already for the UK context as a result of an 18-month research project that culminated in From ideas to social enterprise: a guide to utilising university intellectual property for the benefit of society (hereafter referred to simply as ‘the Guide’).
It is hoped that this UK example sparks interest in transferring university knowledge into social enterprise across other European and international contexts.