Innovation – NERC

Commercialising our work

Commercialisation is the innovative use of intellectual property and know-how to provide products and services through licensing deals and spin-out companies. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) facilitates these activities.

The research we fund:

  • makes a substantial contribution to products and services in many business sectors
  • provides the basis for expert consultancy services offered by our research centres.

Intellectual property arising from NERC-funded research underpins services and products in many business sectors.

The direct commercialisation of science through licensing and spin-outs attracts private sector investment. In many cases the business opportunities arising from science are best exploited by the private sector, which is not subject to the same constraints on exploitation as the public sector.

Benefits for researchers

The benefits for researchers are:

  • economic or societal impact
  • the recognition and reputation for you and your research establishment
  • career progression
  • seeing practical outcomes
  • exploiting synergy between science and business
  • access to new income streams
  • intellectual stimulation.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) results from an idea. It enables the originator of that idea to own their creativity and innovation as if it were physical property. The IP owner can control how their idea is used and be rewarded for it, which encourages further creativity and innovation.

Who owns the intellectual property?

If the IP results from research supported by standard grants to universities and other eligible bodies, those bodies retain the intellectual property rights (IPR).

If the IP comes from science-budget-funded work in NERC research centres, NERC owns it.

In NERC delivery partner organisations, the organisation receiving the funding normally owns it.

In some circumstances we reserve the right to retain, for a limited period, an exclusive right to exploit IP from NERC-funded programmes in universities, research centres and other eligible bodies, for the benefit of grant holders and the UK. This is to avoid cases where multiple ownership of IP might put people off trying to make use of it.

Where a service is purchased from NERC, or a third party commissions research in a NERC research centre, IP and IPR arrangements will be made to fit the particular circumstances. In accordance with the recommendations of the Baker Report, IP will belong to NERC when the commissioning body is a government department or agency. All parties must reach agreement on IP issues at the time of commissioning.

Funding and training

If your research is funded by NERC but you are employed by a university or other research institute, then the intellectual property of your research belongs to your employer. You should therefore approach your organisation’s commercialisation team or technology transfer office for help turning your idea into a marketable product or service.

Contact us

Jacky Wood


Last updated: 14 February 2023

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