Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: CCF-RED: shared technology transfer office functions pilot

Universities with smaller research portfolios and a lower critical mass of intellectual property (IP) and partners can apply for funding to develop sustainable models and steps to implementation for shared technology transfer office (TTO) functions specifically focussed on more effective spinning out of existing IP pipelines.

Proposals must be collaborative and comprise:

  • a minimum of one English higher education provider (HEP)
  • at least one other partner (such as private commercial partners, charities, other universities and other public bodies) with relevant and effective tech transfer capabilities and experience

An indicative £5 million of funding is available. Individual projects will be awarded up to £0.5 million over six months.

Who can apply

In order to be eligible for Research England funding, terms and conditions state that for a provider to be eligible for grant funding from Research England, it must:

  • be registered with the Office for Students (OfS) in the ‘approved (fee cap)’ category of the OfS’ register (this includes continuing to meet the OfS’ ongoing conditions of registration)
  • be undertaking research and related activities, which include knowledge exchange
  • have research activity with the principal, though not necessarily exclusive, aim of creation of new knowledge which is made freely available to all

Applications must be collaborative with:

  • a minimum of one HEP
  • at least one other partner (such as private commercial partners, charities, other universities and other public bodies)

Only eligible English HEPs can:

  • lead applications
  • be the subject of the support

Individual HEPs can lead a single application as either the recipient of support or the provider of support. Where appropriate, a HEP can be a partner on any number of projects.

In order to receive funding, all participating HEPs will need to commit to adopting the best practices at recommendation 1 of the independent review of university spinouts.

What we're looking for

Aims

As set out in the Government Response to the Spinouts Review, the purpose of this funding opportunity is to seek and develop proposals for pilot approaches to sharing the functions that are provided by TTOs.

The funding opportunity aims to:

  • seek and develop a wide range of diverse models for sharing TTO functions to support universities with smaller portfolios and without the critical mass of spinout activity, to maintain and develop experienced back-office functions necessary to best support their pipeline of spinout opportunities
  • identify through the previously mentioned insights on what works and success factors that can be embedded across the wider sector in an efficient, effective and financially sustainable manner

Spinouts are defined as companies founded based on the IP generated through university research. Applications that look to develop general knowledge exchange activity or create a pipeline of activity to support or lead to spinning out are not suitable for this funding opportunity.

This funding opportunity is for initial small-scale development grants to run over a six-month period.

Individual applications should identify sustainable models for pilot approaches to sharing TTO functions. Partners will set their own design parameters for the models, building on evidence and addressing current identified challenges to inform approaches that can achieve the greatest impacts in supporting the spinout pipeline in a long-term sustainable manner.

The focus of this funding opportunity is not on building more tech transfer capacity but on making existing capacity and the higher education tech transfer system generally more effective and efficient through sharing. Building capacity can be part of models where there is a clear plan of sustainability beyond Connecting Capability Fund-Research England Development Fund (CCF-RED) funding if, for example, commitment is made from other sources.

Requirements

All applications must focus on spinning out. They must address how access to expertise and efficient operating processes will be delivered and explore elements they will develop as part of their application, such as, but not exclusively:

  • partnership
  • IP and technology identification
  • protections and related processes
  • operating models
  • due diligence

We anticipate applications will necessarily be of varying scale, length and complexity for implementation, depending on the opportunities present, models identified and partner roles.

We welcome small-scale approaches where the model will have been established and tested by the end of the grant period, with the potential that it is then extended by the partners themselves.

We also welcome more complex models, which may only reach prototype version by the end of the grant and where there may be potential to seek some further follow-on funding. This is subject to funding availability and strength and potential of the model for embedding widely across the sector.

In all cases, the initial development grant project should deliver relevant outcomes and there should be no presumption that any further follow-on funding will be available. Overall, all projects should aim to provide learnings and expertise sharing through dissemination work.

We anticipate that models may include:

  • a HEP with an established spinout pipeline and tech transfer functions of proven experience partnering with other HEPs without critical mass to provide support and services
  • HEPs partnering with non-higher education tech transfer providers for support and services
  • HEPs sharing arising from new or expanded existing collaborations of universities organised around a tech sector, geography and other organising principle

A development grant can be part of a wider CCF-RED or other funded project, as long as the additionality of the grant is clear. Building further on established collaborations may be particularly useful for value for money.

These illustrative examples are by no means exhaustive and we welcome submissions of diverse approaches not considered here.

For the purpose of this exercise, eligible activities to deliver shared TTO functions include:

  • legal and regulatory advice and due diligence, including partnering and IP administration and contracting
  • finance including interface with university finance, investment portfolio management, audit, tax and more.
  • marketing, communications and demand advice
  • IP and technology audit
  • mentorship and initial advice
  • evidence pack development
  • fixed-term project managers and consultants

Broader aligned activities may be considered where they directly enable the wider performance and sustainability of the application.

All applications must involve a partner with established tech transfer capabilities and expertise in place.

Activities that are not eligible for funding

We will not fund the following activities:

  • additional tech transfer staff posts
  • proof of concept funding
  • establishing university venture funds or other access to financial vehicles
  • knowledge exchange and commercialisation activity with focus beyond spinning out
  • wider ecosystem development
  • capital

We will also welcome contributions to any of the items previously mentioned as matched funding. This includes where a development partner is providing access to these activities or where there is access secured through another CCF-RED project. For example, through a collaboration with other CCF-RED grants, other UK Research and Innovation grants or other schemes.

Matched funding could also include activity to extend beyond spinning out, such as support for licensing of IP or access to industry and tech sector collaborations.

This funding opportunity is part of a series of targeted funding opportunities within the CCF-RED. A list of priority topics for future funding opportunities within CCF-RED Fund is presented in the background document (DOCX, 61KB).

Funding

We will provide funding for up to £500,000 per application over six months.
There is no specific match funding requirement. However, we would expect to see clear evidence that partners are contributing in a measurable and meaningful way to the project.

Applications can only be for expenditure on eligible activities as previously mentioned. Ineligible activities for funding may be included in proposals as match funding contributions by partners where the proposal forms part of a larger targeted effort to improve knowledge exchange and commercialisation outcomes.

Partner contributions (both cash and in-kind) demonstrate buy-in to the project and that partners see the value of the work in achieving individual, collective and sector wide HEP efficiency and effectiveness and economic impact. It also demonstrates that there is appropriate value for money, including public funds.

Contributions need to be proportionate to benefits within legal and regulatory frameworks.

We will consider from evidence gathered from the outcomes of this pilot funding whether successful development projects may have opportunity to seek follow-on funding to deepen and embed sustainable approaches identified further across the higher education sector. Subject to availability of funding, Research England may consider whether further open calls for funding on this topic are warranted and explore other approaches to improving efficiency and effectiveness through sharing.

Research England reserves the right to not provide additional funding to projects and so this should not be relied upon when developing your application, with all projects producing relevant outcomes by the end of this grant.

Costs

You should understand your costs, including indirect costs. We do not determine a costing format.

RED proposals are premised around risk-benefit sharing with an expectation that HEPs and other partners should contribute to costs appropriately to the benefits to them, with the CCF-RED contribution reflective of the sector and wider benefits.

Proposals can only be for expenditure on eligible activities as previously detailed. Ineligible activities for funding may be included in proposals as match funding contributions by partners where the proposal forms part of a larger targeted effort in improve knowledge exchange and commercialisation outcomes.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted on the CCF-RED fund template (DOCX, 43KB). The length of the proposal should be proportionate to size of funds requested, with a maximum length of eight pages, including tables.

Letters of support can be included where the application sees them as complimentary to the activities described. Feedback will not be given on applications during development, and this is a single stage competitive process.

Deadline

Applications should be submitted via email to redccf@re.ukri.org by 8 July 2024 midday.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess applications, including advice of our Commercialisation Expert group (see background document for membership) and RED panel. We will apply the assessment criteria to all applications and will provide a recommendation of proposals to award to Research England’s Executive Chair.

Once the assessment period has been completed, we will inform applicants of the outcomes by August 2024.

Feedback

Feedback will not be given on applications during development, and this is a single stage competitive process.

Assessment criteria

Building capabilities

Applications demonstrate that the pilot model will allow the capabilities of the HEPs and partners involved to develop and build upon individual experiences to support a shared TTO function.

Delivery of efficient operating processes and access to expertise

Applications provide detailed evidence showcasing the innovation and expertise behind the described sustainable model. The detailed evidence demonstrates the proposed model is best placed for testing the activities, including details of the outlined functions.

Dissemination and sustainability

Applications demonstrate:

  • clear plans of what sustainability will look like with evidence for continuation of activity beyond the end of the Connecting Capability Fund-Research England Development (CCF-RED) funding
  • clear plans and consideration to disseminate findings and learning from the pilot activity for benefits of the HEPs, partners and wider higher education sectors system development including Research England policy and funding development

Delivery and funding

Project costs and activities are justified by need and evidence, providing value for money, including:

  • additionality, leverage or match
  • appropriate project team
  • risks considered and appropriately addressed

Cohort meeting for successful applications

Successful applications will need to include activity at the end of the project to summarise and share learnings on the successes and challenges. This will help inform Research England’s sector wide policy development on this topic.

As part of this, successful applicants will be required to attend a meeting of the cohort of projects (and of Research England and relevant experts) at the end of the six-month development grant to present on their outcomes and learnings. This will provide an opportunity for cohort learning on successes and challenges and to give Research England advice on learning and implications for next steps.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

Louise Wall and Chris Gibson

Email: redccf@re.ukri.org

We aim to respond within three working days.

Additional info

This funding opportunity is part of the Connecting Capability Fund-Research England Development Fund (CCF-RED) programme which sits within the RED Fund.

Find guidance on adherence to relevant RED processes and requirements (PDF, 169KB), specifically:

  • eligibility
  • success criteria
  • project monitoring
  • project reviews and evaluations
  • impact assessment
  • Freedom of Information Act 2000
  • subsidy controls

Supporting documents

Research England background document (DOCX, 61KB)

CCF-RED fund template (DOCX, 43KB)

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