How to commercialise your research - ESRC


What support you can get to commercialise

There are a number of sources of support available from within your research organisation, such as assisting with a project process from initial concept to business plan, commercial launches and sustainable enterprise.

External support is also available, and includes training, toolkits, networks, funding and investment.

Within your organisation

Many universities and research organisations have offices that engage with business and provide a link between staff and the non-academic world. They are usually part of the central administrative function and can be called:

  • tech-transfer offices
  • innovation centres
  • business development units.

These units often hold events and workshops to address questions around commercialisation. They may cover issues including:

  • intellectual property rights
  • company law
  • contracts
  • networking
  • business plans
  • budgeting
  • finance sources.

Social scientists might need different support to science, technology, engineering and maths colleagues, who can be more used to working in the commercial world. This can include understanding what the potential added value of their research outputs are for non-academics, or what resources are available to make it sustainable.

The routes and types of support include:

  • professional support staff
  • commercialisation strategy
  • funding
  • sustainability strategy.

Professional support staff

This includes impact acceleration accounts, business engagement or knowledge exchange teams or tech transfer teams who can offer:

  • due diligence
  • market research
  • business modelling
  • consultancy
  • contract advice
  • intellectual property advice
  • data, marketing and communication services.

Commercialisation strategy

Done at either the faculty or university level, this can help identify areas of priority, direction of travel and scope. It could include postgraduate research and support, consultancy service, social enterprise, spinout company or licensing.


Financial support including allocations from grants for impact acceleration, knowledge exchange funds or endowments and other internal sources.

Sustainability strategy

Developing a sustainability strategy can allow a researcher to continue investigating and developing their field of interest and retain the original momentum of a project, while providing clarity on who has responsibility for helping to scale up and sustain the impact.

Your organisation may provide strategic support through a number of routes, for example, by a small team of people who have relevant experience and an understanding of the value the research can have in a commercial environment. Additional support may also be provided by PhD students who take on some of the routine necessities of commercialisation.

If you would prefer to oversee the commercialisation yourself, you could access specialists from a business engagement office, who may act as mentors and provide assistance and advice at all stages of the process.

Outside your organisation

External support includes:

  • training
  • toolkits
  • networks
  • funding and investment.

Outside your institution, there are several ways to support commercialisation of your ideas, including:

  • Knowledge Transfer Partnerships – a UKRI programme that provides match funding for a graduate to undertake knowledge transfer work between a research organisation and either a business or charitable or public sector partner
  • Aspect – a social sciences platform for entrepreneurship, commercialisation and transformation, that is an alliance of seven UK universities who are encouraging collaboration between academics and businesses, and aims to address the challenges of social sciences commercialisation
  • incubators, such as ZINC – a company incubator at the London School of Economics, which helps entrepreneurs create technology-based companies and products for social missions in the developed world
  • Start Up Loans – government-supported loans and mentoring for small businesses, including social enterprises, to help them in their first 24 months
  • Social Enterprise UK – a network of social enterprises.

Last updated: 31 August 2021

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