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Durham University

Durham University News

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Durham University receives over £800,000 as part of national boost for science innovation

(15 November 2012)

Professor David Parker

Durham University has received over £800,000 as part of the Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA) scheme, aimed at turning UK universities’ best science ideas into profitable business projects.

The £60 million investment project was announced by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary today. The funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK’s main funding agency for scientific research.

The IAA grants are aimed at supporting the very early stages of turning research outputs into commercial propositions, bridging the gap between an idea and its development reaching a point where a company or venture capitalist might become involved. It will also allow universities to fund secondments for scientists and engineers to spend time in a business environment,  improving their knowledge and skills and returning to their research with an enhanced understanding of the way companies operate.

IAA can be used to bring any EPSRC-funded research closer to market and Durham, as well as the inward and outward secondment of researchers, will also be offering two other main strands of support: Technology Conditioning Programmes will be used to prepare research projects to become commercial propositions, whilst Building Bridges Awards will offer multidisciplinary research support to industry through three of the University’s centres; the Biophysical Sciences Institute, Durham Energy Institute and the Institute of Advanced Research Computing.

Professor Tom McLeish, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) at Durham said:  “We are delighted with this ESPRC award which will help to further expand Durham University and its commercial partners’ activities, creating new avenues for knowledge exchange already recognised nationally and internationally.

“We aim to incorporate within the IAA, the experience gained over the past 3 years from the Knowledge Transfer Account (KTA), held jointly with our colleagues at Newcastle University and the Knowledge Transfer Secondment (KTS) scheme. The KTA has meant engineering and physical science research outputs have entered the healthcare sector through direct collaboration with clinicians in the creation of products.”

Professor Richard Davies, Durham University’s Dean of Knowledge Exchange and Impact, said: “This IAA grant will help us establish additional partnerships with local, national and international businesses, social enterprises and the public sector to use Durham’s knowledge and expertise for the wider benefit.”

One of many examples from Durham of a project which received ESPRC funding and led to a viable company spin-out is Fscan Limited. Professor David Parker developed a simple, 3-minute test for prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men in the UK. The test uses luminescent lanthanide complexes to measure the level of citrate in fluid samples from the prostate gland. The test is significantly more accurate than the current PSA test standard which yields up to 40% false positives. FScan is currently building a large scale clinical assessment in conjunction with University College London Hospitals to fully validate the research. Another aspect of the business is in the development of smart imaging agents for MRI scanners.

Mr Cable said: “This investment will help our leading universities become centres of innovation and entrepreneurship and generate the kind of commercial success which will fuel economic growth and make the UK one of the most attractive places in the world to do science-based business”.

Professor Dave Delpy, ESPRC’s Chief Executive said: “The research we support is recognised as outstanding on the international stage. These Accounts aim to make a step change in the impact that has on society: generating new business opportunities which drive economic growth, creating better, more informed, public policy.”

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