UKRI and the US to collaborate on research commercialisation

Business colleagues

The US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will team up in areas of mutual interest in research, research translation and commercialisation.

The agreement between the two organisations has been formalised today via a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

NIST and UKRI will initially work together to facilitate staff exchanges between technology transfer offices (TTOs), map and analyse regional innovation and economic impact, and share best practice on metrics.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director, Dr Walter G Copan, and UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, signed the MoU.

An ambitious transatlantic effort

Executive Chair of Research England, David Sweeney, and Dr Walter G Copan announced the signing of the MoU today at a digital meeting between the heads of the world’s leading TTOs at ten top universities in the USA, UK and Belgium, as part of a scheme called TenU.

TenU is an ambitious transatlantic effort that brings together ten leading university TTOs to leverage their combined knowledge on how best to use cutting-edge research outcomes to tackle global challenges.

Dr Walter G Copan said:

Moving discoveries that arise from publicly-funded research from the lab to the market is key to innovation and economic vitality.

This Memorandum of Understanding will advance our ongoing trans-Atlantic engagement on the role of technology-based innovation in economic resilience and societal benefit into cooperative action.

It will support our NIST and UKRI partners in delivering on their shared mission of advancing world-class science through public-private partnerships.

Vital international collaboration

Dame Ottoline Leyser said:

Closer collaborative working between UKRI and NIST will support scientists, engineers and technical experts to realise their ideas, benefitting our economies and societies by sharing learning and effective practice.

International collaboration is vital and this MoU will further support UKRI’s efforts to strengthen the UK’s contribution in addressing rapidly-emerging and continuing system-wide challenges, including in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

David Sweeney, and Dr Walter G Copan discussed with the TenU group the opportunities to deliver the commitments in the MoU. These commit the agencies to engage in cooperative activities to facilitate innovation and commercialisation practices, including:

  • supporting activity around staff exchanges among technology transfer staff
  • joint research and sharing best practice on technology transfer and knowledge exchange metrics
  • collaborations to improve connections between manufacturing programs and research funded by the US and UK governments
  • efforts concerning the mapping and analysis of regional innovation and economic development.

Enhancing US-UK scientific cooperation

Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services, Mojdeh Bahar, who signed the MoU on behalf of the Technology Partnerships Office of NIST, said:

This MOU will enhance US-UK scientific cooperation in general and UKRI-NIST cooperation specifically in priority areas such as AI, advanced manufacturing and quantum information science.

UKRI and NIST will further cooperate to facilitate innovation and commercialization practices.

David Sweeney said:

University technology transfer is at the heart of how the UK delivers economic and social benefits from research.

Close cooperation and coordination of commercialisation and innovation activities between UKRI and NIST will help us continue to develop and showcase best practice at the global cutting edge.

General Manager of KU Leuven R&D, Belgium and Chair of today’s TenU meeting, Paul van Dun, said:

TenU is honoured to host the confirmation of the MoU between NIST and UKRI, which is a significant milestone in US-UK research commercialisation cooperation.

The signatories recognise TenU’s collaborative work as a forerunner to the inter-agency agreement.

Crucially, they also acknowledge the key role that technology transfer offices play worldwide in translating research-based innovations into services and products and so contributing to worldwide social and economic growth.

The MoU will run from November 2020 for five years.


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Further information

1. UKRI works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish.

We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UKRI brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.

2. TenU is a leading practitioner group that brings together the heads of the world’s leading TTOs at ten top universities:

  • Cambridge (UK)
  • Columbia (USA)
  • Edinburgh (UK)
  • Imperial College London (UK)
  • Leuven (Belgium)
  • Manchester (UK)
  • MIT (USA)
  • Oxford (UK)
  • Stanford (USA)
  • University College London (UK).

This is to share and develop improved approaches to commercialising university research for societal and economic benefit.

Top image:  Credit: sanjeri/GettyImages

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