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Durham University

Research and Innovation Services

Information for Staff and Students

Intellectual Property Development Process

The Research Commercialisation team works with academic staff and students to develop the University’s IP to obtain impact from our work. Enquiries should be made directly to the Research Commercialisation team who will guide you through the IP evaluation and development process outlined below.

Support for Student Enterprise and Business Start-Ups

Taking part in enterprising activities will not only help you to foster and build your enterprising skills, it will also give you the opportunity to explore your own entrepreneurial potential. Support is available to help you set up and run your own business whilst still at University. If you want to get involved in enterprise or entrepreneurial activities there are a number of options available through the Careers & Entreprise Centre. If you wish to make use of IP created as part of your course of study or research then you will need to discuss this with your supervisor or programme manager as there may be restrictions and conditions affecting the ability to do so.

Step 1 Making Contact

The first step of the commercialisation process is a conversation between the academic-inventor and one of our Technology Transfer Managers (TTMs). Contact can be made via phone, email or through submitting an Initial Commercial Enquiry Form. IP development requires consideration of many factors about the invention itself and the research area, but importantly must also understand previous contractual obligations, the applications and route to market and consider possible IP protection methods.

Step 2 Assessment

After making contact the TTM will work with the academic-inventor to establish a commercial case through building an understanding of the business opportunity. As part of this assessment process the TTM will need to ask basic questions about the business opportunity, including:

  • Is the IP wholly owned by the university or are there inventors from other institutions or contractual obligations to funders or other parties in a research collaboration?
  • Does it have a market?
  • Is the idea original?
  • Will it work?
  • How can it be protected? (Is IP protection available for example through a patent, trade secret, copyright or other method?)
  • Are there any obvious ‘freedom to operate’ concerns e.g. an existing patent in the area?
  • Does it represent a genuine business opportunity?
  • Can a commercial agreement be reached?

Answers to these questions will be considered in relation to the business case, future impact and how a commercialisation project will be supported and developed.

Step 3 Commercial Opportunity Development

Ideas that are considered to have commercial potential are formally recorded as a Technology Disclosure (TD) and the project progress is then discussed and tracked at our Research Commercialisation team’s regular IP review meetings attended by the Director Commercialisation and Economic Development and the Head of Legal Services. At this stage academic-inventors are required to compete and return our formal university intellectual property disclosure forms IP1 and IP2.

TDs are subsequently managed through a close relationship between our TTMs and academics. This can involve developing plans to engage with investors or potential licensees and making arrangements to protect intellectual property. This work will take place alongside any technical developments and/or applications for research funding.

Successful outcomes from the commercial opportunity development process can be a licence to a third party, the spin out of a new company or use of the IP as background to support further research funding or new business partnerships. Where the opportunity results in a spin out company or a commercial licence then the University undertakes to reward its inventors through an agreed revenue sharing arrangement.


Research Commercialisation Team Contacts

Michael Bath
Technology Transfer Manager

Dr Heather Allinson
Technology Transfer Manager

Dr Naomi Willis
Technology Transfer Manager

Dr Tim Hammond
Director of Commercialisation & Economic Development